What should I do if my landlord dies?

If you’re a tenant and your landlord dies, what does this mean for you?

We recently looked at what landlords should do if their tenant dies, so now it’s time to look at the flip side of this situation and the impact a landlord’s death can have on the tenant and the landlord’s family.

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Who is now responsible for the property?

As a landlord, morbid as it sounds, you should be prepared for this eventuality, so that you can ensure a smooth takeover of your rental business that is easy for your executor and stress-free for your tenants. 

Make sure you keep your paperwork in good order, our free Document Storage Tool is a great way to do this (and will notify you when your certificates are coming up for renewal). Having a central document with all your information is also a great idea; make sure that you leave details about this in your will, so that your executor knows how to access it.

Keep a note of:

  • All of your properties. List all of the addresses in one place
  • Your tenants. Note which tenants live in which property (if you have more than one) and what their contact information is. Be sure to update this when you get new tenants
  • Tenancy details. Note down how long the tenancy is and when it started
  • Financial information. Track how much rent are you charging on each property, what the mortgage details are, when you expect to remortgage 
  • Insurance information. If you have Home Emergency Insurance or Rent Guarantee Insurance, make sure you have all the details, including where to find the full terms and conditions and when they are up for renewal. Having these insurances is great for landlords, but your family will want to contact the individual insurers to make sure that the policy is still valid 
  • Repairs. Keep a note of what repairs have been done or any updates you plan to make
  • Access to certification. Include a link to all your certificates, from Gas Safety to EICR, so that the executor can check expiry dates. This should also include any other certification relating to the property – try to keep it all in one place, clearly named, so it’s easy for someone else to pick up

While this can feel morbid, it’s also a useful document for you to have for your own reference, so try not to dwell on the idea that this is for someone to use in the event of your death.

When you invest in property, it’s wise to write a will, which will name an executor. This person will be responsible for looking after your rentals in the event of your death, so make sure you have discussed this with them beforehand and you are both comfortable taking on the responsibility.

What happens to the tenant in the event of a landlord’s death?

Tenants can be reassured that the tenancy doesn’t die with the landlord, so very little changes for a tenant and they will have to keep paying rent: 

  • Fixed term tenancy. The terms of the agreement will still stand
  • Rolling/period tenancy. The terms will still stand, but the tenant must give one month’s notice if they want to leave, while the executor should give two months notice

The tenancy becomes the responsibility of the landlord’s estate throughout probate, before being passed on as per the instructions of the will. Probate can take a while, so tenants and the executor will have time to discuss next steps, but this is only really an issue if the property is unlikely to remain a rental, in which case the tenant should be advised of this as soon as possible, so they can make arrangements to move. 

No matter what, the tenant’s deposit will continue to be protected, if it is in an approved protection scheme (which it should be or you could face a big fine!)

What if the landlord had made no will or plans?

As a landlord, you are not only responsible for properties, but for the people that call those properties home. So no matter what, always make sure that your wishes in the event of your death are clear.

Without a will, you will die intestate, which means that a strict set of rules have to be followed regarding inheritance of your estate. 

Again, the tenant is largely unaffected – they’ll need to keep paying the rent and will get an update from the person appointed to represent the estate, letting them know what has happened and how to continue paying their rent. The representative does the same job as the executor and for the tenant, the same rules apply. 

While your tenant may not be immediately affected, your family will be. So make sure that you are doing everything you can now to make the transition as smooth as possible for them – this will mean they are able to support your tenant as best they can too.

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