If you own a rental property in Tucson–or any where else for that matter–it’s not out of the realm of possibility that one of your tenants will pass away during the term of his or her lease. Your obligations and duties will vary depending on a few different factors. Here are some FAQs about Arizona requirements for what happens when a renter dies to help clarify things:
My tenant died, but she was married and living with her spouse in the rental unit. Do I have to do anything?
According to experts, no. The surviving spouse will remain obligated on the lease, and will be responsible for taking care of the deceased tenant’s property and other personal items.
My tenant died, but he lived with a roommate/co-tenant. What should I do?
The remaining tenants will likely remain obligated on the lease if it was “jointly and severally liable” unless there was a provision that the lease terminates upon the death of a tenant. If the remaining tenants are still liable for the full amount of rent, they can likely seek reimbursement for the deceased tenant’s share of the rent from the deceased co-tenant’s estate.
You may be in a bit of a sticky situation as to the deceased tenant’s property. The deceased tenant’s estate now owns the deceased tenant’s property, not the co-tenant. You and the remaining tenants will have to work with the executor of the estate to ensure that the deceased tenant’s property is removed according to law. If the remaining co-tenants wish to stay in the rental unit, they will be motivated to cooperate with the renter’s estate–after all, they want to be reimbursed for rent, and they’ll want the deceased tenant’s personal items removed if they wish to bring in another roommate.
Make sure that you don’t allow access to the unit to any unauthorized persons, and don’t remove any property. People authorized to removed property would include the administrator or executor of the estate. Don’t assume family members, such as parents or siblings, have access. Require documentation from the court.
My tenant died. She lived alone. What should I do?
First make sure the rental unit is secure, and that no unauthorized people can enter. This will require entering the property, and possibly re-keying the locks. Typically landlords must give two days notice, but the death of a tenant is an exception to that rule as it is considered an emergency. Take photographs of the rental unit to document what personal items were present.
As stated above, only the executor or administrator of the deceased tenant’s estate should enter the rental unit, so require court documentation of whoever makes that claim. Don’t assume that siblings, children, or parents of the tenant are authorized. Families can be messy, especially when there’s a death. Requiring the proper paperwork protects you.
The tenant’s estate will be responsible for paying rent through the end of the lease term but consider negotiating an early lease termination date with the executor or administrator of the estate. If you can’t agree on a termination date, you’ll be required to make reasonable efforts to find another tenant. As always, document those efforts.
Can I insert any provisions into my lease agreements that would make this process easier?
Yes! Section 33-1314(f) of the Arizona Landlord Tenant Act allows the landlord to request in the lease agreement the name of a person the tenant authorizes to enter the tenant’s rental unit and retrieve and store the tenant’s property if the tenant dies. If the landlord is unable to reach the named person at the contact information provided, or if the person fails to respond within 10 days of the first contact, the landlord may dispose of the deceased tenant’s property as provided by law (see Section 33-1370). There are other provisions in this section (including a requirement that you require valid identification from any individual claiming to be the person named in the lease), so make sure you read the whole section, and consult with an attorney if you have any questions.
More information: Resources for Tucson Landlords
As with any other written articles on this website, under no circumstances whatsoever should this be considered legal advice in any way, shape, or form. Got it? Capiche? We are not attorneys licensed to practice in Arizona. If you have any questions at all, please consult with a licensed attorney.