Q. I am a Landlord and unfortunately I have just been notified that the tenant currently renting my apartment has died. Terrible news and a delicate situation but with a mortgage to pay on the property can I assume that ends the tenancy and I can re let the apartment once their personal items have been removed from the property?
A. I am really sorry to hear this, very sad news and of course an extremely sensitive situation. If the tenant dies during the fixed term of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, the tenancy does not automatically come to an end, contrary to what many people assume. The Tenancy Agreement is a contract and the contract does not come to an end when a contracting party dies, the obligations under the tenancy do not cease as a result of the tenants death. The benefit of the tenancy and the liability to pay rent for the remainder of the fixed term both become part of the deceased tenant’s estate, which I recognise may not have the funds to do so. What is likely to happen in practice will depend on the exact circumstances. If the tenant who died was one of at least two tenants, jointly and severally liable under the terms of the agreement the tenancy will continue with the surviving tenant/s being bound by the obligations contained therein. At the end of the fixed term, a landlord does not need a reason to seek possession of the property, but merely needs to follow the correct procedure by issuing a Section 21. Where it is determined that notice will be given in the circumstances of a tenant death, notice should be served on the tenants estate. This may be the easiest way to seek possession of the property if the fixed term has, or is shortly about to come to an end. Of course if the sole tenant has died you may want to seek possession of the property before the end of the fixed term or establish if any party has obtained succession rights. During the fixed term of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, the tenancy can be passed onto another person according to the will of the person who has died. If no will is made, it may pass to their next of kin according to the rules of intestacy. That person may continue to live in the property under the terms of the existing tenancy until the Landlord wishes to seek possession or the successor wishes to bring the tenancy to an end, for example at the end of the term. If you wish to seek possession now during the fixed term, it is sensible, in the first instance, to approach the tenant’s estate which may be anxious to end the tenancy at the earliest opportunity (having been given a reasonable amount of time to clear the property and remove all personal belongings). If the tenant’s executors will agree an early surrender with you the tenancy will be bought to an end.