Atlanta Property Management: What happens when your tenant dies in the property and they don’t have a will?

Mike Nelson
Mike Nelson

Disclaimer – We are not attorneys and we are not trying to provide you with legal advice.  We are trying to provide you with a ready reference to Georgia law regarding the landlord tenant relationship and share some techniques our company uses to comply with those laws. You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to legal advice from your attorney or other professional legal services provider.  If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult your attorney or other professional legal services provider.  You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information on this website.  We encourage you to read the code for yourself and consult your own attorney before making any final decisions regarding your actions.

AS A LANDLORD, DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR TENANT DIES AT THE PROPERTY AND THEY DON’T HAVE A WILL?

This can be tricky and frustrating.

Most leases have some language similar to “Unless otherwise specifically noted, the term “Landlord” as used in this Lease shall include its representatives, heirs, agents, assigns, and successors in title to Property and the term “Tenant” shall include Tenant’s heirs and representatives.”

In short, the lease is still applicable against the tenant’s heirs.

Common mistake – the landlord learns that the tenant has died and someone claiming to be a relative offers to remove all of the tenant’s things.  Great!  Problem solved!  Then, weeks later, the landlord is contacted by the Executor of the estate asking about getting access to collect the tenant’s things.  Uh Oh!  The landlord explains what happened to which the Executor replies “What do you mean someone else already got them??!!”

If your tenant dies, then an estate is created.  The estate is represented by the Executor or the Executrix.  That is the party that can legally speak for, and sign for, the decedent.  The Executor is assigned by the Probate Court.  They will have paperwork to confirm their appointment and you can confirm that with the Probate Court if you need to.

If the rent is not being paid, the landlord can evict for non-payment but make sure your attorney and the court know that the tenant died and you are evicting their estate.  That way the Probate Court can be informed, as necessary, in the event the estate wants to continue the tenancy.  Consider – perhaps the tenant had children and the family wants to keep the children in the house until the school year is completed, or some other milestone is reached.  Perhaps the estate is just days away from getting life insurance proceeds and can get the rent caught up.

Best Practice:  Don’t take short cuts and don’t assume.  Make sure you are dealing with the Executor or Executrix and make sure you consult your attorney before taking possession of the property or evicting the tenant.

Excalibur Home Management is an Atlanta property management company.

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