Tenant Death & Landlord Rights

Written by lainie petersen | 13/05/2017
Tenant Death & Landlord Rights
Not even death ends a tenant, landlord relationship. (angel of death. image by Tom Oliveira from Fotolia.com)

A landlord has specific rights and responsibilities when faced with the death of a tenant. State laws govern how a landlord can enforce lease terms, relet the dwelling and dispose of a tenant's property.

State by State

Rental laws are state-by-state. States can have very different laws for tenant-landlord relationships, so it is important not to assume that a practice that is legal in one state is legal in any other state.

Future Rent

Even when a tenant dies, in most states the lease remains in effect. A landlord then has the right to the rent as agreed upon in the lease and can sue the tenant's estate for the balance.

Reclaiming the Unit

If a tenant had a lease, the tenant's estate now holds that lease and landlords may not rent the dwelling unless, and until, the lease lapses or is terminated. If the tenant had a month-to-month arrangement, the landlord must follow state law regarding the termination of periodic tenancies.

The Tenant's Property

A tenant's property belongs to the tenant's estate. Once a lease has been terminated, the landlord may remove this property, but must safely store it according to state law. In some cases, if property remains unclaimed for a period of time, the landlord can sell it and recoup the costs of storage and any other money owed by the tenant.


A landlord can find himself in big trouble if he attempts to rent the dwelling or remove the tenant's belongings prior to proper termination of tenancy.

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