It is important to note that the death of the tenant does not automatically prompt the end of the agreement.
For example, if a couple rent a property with both of their names on the tenancy agreement and one of them passes away, the other would automatically take over all obligations of the tenancy. This is known as the ‘right of survivorship’.
If the deceased was a sole tenant, their estate would be liable to continue to pay rent under the terms of the tenancy, and for landlords, all rules in relation to evictions and providing notices still apply
In this situation, it is important for landlords to establish who has the legal authority to act on behalf of the tenant, which is normally stated in the will. If the tenant did not leave a will, or there was a will with no executor, then the tenancy will be transferred to the Public Trustee on a temporary basis.
In any case, the landlord should ensure that they obtain proof of authority from the deceased’s personal representative before dealing with them and any affairs of the deceased.
It is important to note that the Personal Representative is not liable themselves in their personal capacity for payment of any rent or previous arrears.
It is normally in all parties’ best interests to negotiate a surrender of the tenancy, as this ensures that rent is not being paid from the deceased’s estate for a vacant property. It also allows the Landlord to re-let the property to new tenants and not have to wait for the deceased’s estate to be processed, which typically takes a while.
Although agreeing a surrender is the most time and cost-efficient way of handling this situation, it is useful to Landlords and Personal Representatives to understand their options when dealing with such affairs. Firstly, it is vital that the person the Landlord is corresponding with is properly authorised to deal with the deceased’s affairs and then the two can proceed in either coming to an agreement or the Landlord can choose to appropriately serve notice in order to regain possession of the property.
As always, it is advisable to seek your own independent legal advice and also provides more reasons for getting a Will done to deal with such eventualities.
Any questions in relation to such matters can be addressed to Mr Fariz Uvais, Head of Litigation.