Q. I’ve had some really great tenants a middle aged couple renting my property for over 2 years now who have been pretty much perfect in every respect, however I recently had some terrible news, the wife called to say her husband had died very suddenly. As you can imagine this was shocking news all round. However, a couple of months on I now wonder where I stand as obviously both Mr and Mrs signed the AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement). Without sounding heartless and unsympathetic I obviously need to protect my own position as a Landlord, should I get a new contract drawn up for the remaining tenant or can I just leave as is? By the way so as to give some time to the wife to grieve I have allowed the tenancy to run into periodic, not sure how that impacts the whole scenario?
A. What a dreadful situation to find yourself in, being a Landlord can be tough sometimes but this kind of situation certainly isn’t easy on so many levels. You do in fact have two options, the first being that you issue a brand new contract with Mrs Tenant’s name only; I would advise though that you consider whether there be a need to re reference the remaining tenant, as the prior references at the onset of the tenancy were obviously based on the earnings of both tenants? You are of course at liberty to take a view on this based on how you feel, are you confident for instance that Mrs can maintain the rent on her own? The second option and the option I would recommend is that you leave things exactly as they are. As you are in periodic, the terms of the original contract remain the same, so in that case as Mr’s name is still on the current AST then if Mrs were to default on the rent at any stage any court would almost certainly look to the estate of the deceased’s to help settle the claim. Questions like this and situations like this don’t happen very often so it’s always best to seek direct advice from the lettings professionals – ARLA (Association of Residential Lettings Agents).