What Happens to an Apartment Lease After a Death? | Cake Blog (2022)

You’ve probably got a long checklist to complete when you lose a loved one.

  • Decide where to hold the funeral. Check.
  • Take care of legal and financial responsibilities. Check.
  • Look for your loved one’s end-of-life planning checklist. Check.
  • Look for life insurance and bank account numbers and passwords. Check.

Here’s one more “check” to add to your list: You might need to research what happens to a mortgage after someone dies. But what should you do if your loved one was renting a house or apartment?

We’ll guide you through handling a house or apartment lease after a loved one dies.

Jump ahead to these sections:

  • Read Up on Your State Laws
  • Notify the Landlord of the Death
  • Determine Who’s Responsible for Paying Rent or Finding a New Tenant
  • Ask That the Estate be Released from Financial Obligation
  • Be Prepared to Show Documentation that You are the Next of Kin
  • Clean Out the Apartment or House
  • Find Out What Happens to Unclaimed Possessions
  • Sign the Release of the Rights of Possession Form

Read Up on Your State Laws

Each state has its own laws about what happens with a lease after the tenant dies. Most state laws say that the deceased’s estate is responsible for paying the entire amount due on the contract. This means that if your loved one died three months into a 12-month lease, the estate should remit the additional nine months of rent payments to the landlord.

Most state laws are also quick to protect the rights of the landlord by saying that unpaid rent must also be remitted to the landlord as well as any amount to cover damage to the property.

Most rental agreements require that the renter submit a deposit when you sign the lease. The deposit amount can be used to pay for the unpaid rent or the damage incurred to the property. If the deposit amount is greater than what is owed, the landlord must refund the amount to the deceased’s estate.

Look at the wording of the lease to see if the security deposit can be used to pay the last month’s rent. Some contracts state that the security deposit can go “toward” the previous month’s rent if the rent had increased since signing the original rental agreement.

» MORE: Easy as 1-2-3, make an online will in minutes.

Notify the Landlord of the Death

In most cases, the next of kin or the executor of the estate must notify the landlord about the death of a tenant. If you are one of those responsible parties, inform the landlord as soon as possible, but also provide written notification as well.

(Video) My Landlord Died! Is My Lease Still Valid? - Episode 278

Provide your name and contact information to the landlord in the written notification. You may consider sending the written notification through certified mail so there is a record that the landlord received the correspondence.

To find the contact information for the landlord, look for a lease agreement within the paperwork of the deceased. Ask another tenant for the contact information if no lease is located. For large apartment buildings, the contact information may be posted in the lobby or other public spaces within the building.

Determine Who’s Responsible for Paying Rent or Finding a New Tenant

So who’s responsible for finding another tenant after a renter dies? The responsible party varies from state to state. For example, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to find a new tenant as soon as possible in Texas. Once a new tenant is found, the estate must be released of its obligation to pay the rent.

What if your loved one lived in a highly-desirable location that was rent-controlled? Would you be able to take over your loved one’s lease? The rules vary among cities but most of the time, next of kin are not allowed to take over the lease. This rule may be overlooked if the survivor lived at the location.

» MORE: This is the modern way to prepare for tomorrow.

Ask That the Estate be Released from Financial Obligation

DIdn’t your mama always say, “it doesn’t hurt to ask”? If your loved one lived in a state that requires renters to fulfill their obligations of a lease no matter what, you can still ask for grace on behalf of the estate.

Schedule a face-to-face meeting or call with the property manager. Bring your documentation that proves that you can speak on behalf of the estate. Politely ask if there is some sort of compromise that can be agreed upon to release the estate from the lease.

The property manager may gladly release the estate from the obligation, perhaps out of kindness. It’s difficult to say “no” to a family member who is grieving.

(Video) Dealing with the Death of a Tenant in California

Perhaps the property manager knows that the apartment can be rented for a larger amount and that releasing the estate from the lease will make financial sense to the company.

Share your final wishes, just in case.

Create a free Cake end-of-life planning profile and instantly share your health, legal, funeral, and legacy decisions with a loved one.

Start planning

Be Prepared to Show Documentation that You are the Next of Kin

The landlord may be leery of letting just anyone clear out the apartment after your loved one’s death. In fact, the landlord may have changed the locks on the apartment or house to keep unauthorized people from taking the deceased’s belongings.

Be prepared to show legal documentation that you are the executor of the estate. You may also need to show the landlord a photo ID to prove that you are the person who has the right to remove the property.

» MORE: Take your planning one document at a time.

(Video) What is probate? | What happens to real estate when someone dies? | Academy Home Buyers

Clean Out the Apartment or House

In most cases, a landlord is required to give the family or executors time to clean out the apartment of a loved one who dies. Of course, if the estate is still paying rent, the property of the deceased can stay until the rental agreement has expired.

The landlord may request that your loved one’s property be removed by a specific deadline if the estate has been released from the lease. If the landlord is not required to release the estate from the lease agreement, it would be kind of the survivors to clean out the property as soon as possible. A general guideline of between two weeks and 30 days would be an acceptable time frame.

Cleaning out the rental property may be a monumental process, especially if your loved one lived in the home for years. You might consider taking these steps:

  • First, start with the paperwork. Look for life insurance documents, debts that the estate may be responsible for, and any additional assets.
  • Next, decide which items to sell at an estate sale, which to donate to a local charity, and which to recycle or throw away.
  • Finally, set aside photographs and family mementos and distribute those among the survivors.

Find Out What Happens to Unclaimed Possessions

Perhaps you’re not able to or interested in cleaning out your loved one’s apartment. If this is the case, the landlord may check with an attorney to understand the proper way to dispose of the deceased’s possessions. This disposal may be similar to the process that occurs when a property is abandoned.

In this case, the landlord may be required to store the belongings of your loved one for a specific number of days. After that time passes, the possessions may be sold at auction. Most of the time, the landlord may be able to keep the amount raised from the sale.

Sign the Release of the Rights of Possession Form

As the next of kin or executor of the estate, you may be required to sign the Release of the Rights of Possession form. This form states that you have removed all personal effects from the rental property and that the property has been vacated.

Even though the estate may be legally required to pay the balance of the lease, you may interact with a landlord who is a bit more forgiving. He or she may feel compassion and allow you more time to clean out your loved one’s personal effects. He or she may also release the estate from any further financial obligation.

This guide is meant to be a general discussion of what happens to a lease after a renter dies. Please make sure you read your state’s laws regarding this topic. Speak with an attorney so you completely understand your rights and responsibilities, since the laws vary from state to state.

(Video) Bonus: His Tenant Died. Here's What This Landlord Did & What An Attorney Says You Need To Do

If you've figured out your debts and assets and how they work after you die, you may be ready to take the next step and get a will. Look at the comparisons of the most popular will services and estate planning attorneys below.

How to create a will
OptionPrice rangeBest if you...Get started

Online will maker


  • Have a simple estate and are confident about the legal process
  • Don't anticipate large estate, gift taxes, or complex legal issues

Find an Online Will Maker

Basic estate planning attorney


  • Have a slightly complicated estate or questions about the legal process
  • Don't have significant assets, businesses, or multiple wills and don’t anticipate complex legal issues

Schedule a Free Online Consultation

Attorney who specializes in complex estates


  • Have a very complicated estate with significant assets you want to protect, questions about the legal process, and anticipate complex legal or tax issues
  • Can afford a more expensive attorney

Schedule a Free Online Consultation

If you're looking for more guides on financial obligations after death, check out our articles on student loan debt after death, credit cards after death, and who's responsibe for paying for funerals.

(Video) What To Do If Tenant Dies In Rental Property


  1. “Death of a tenant—Landlord duties—Disposition of property procedures—Liability.” app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=59.18.595.
  2. “Landlord and Tenant.” www.dre.ca.gov/files/pdf/refbook/ref09.pdf.
  3. “Succession Rights.” www1.nyc.gov/site/rentguidelinesboard/resources/succession-rights.page.


What happens to a lease when the leaseholder dies? ›

In most cases there will be an early termination charge that is applicable if the lease is to be ended before the contract is due to expire. Alternatively, the funder may be able to look at transferring the lease to another person's name if the vehicle is still required for the remainder of the contract.

Do leases end with death? ›

Generally speaking, the death of the lease holder is treated the same way as any other reason for early termination of the contract, and details of any early termination fees and financial 'penalties' will be fully detailed in the lease contract.

What happens to rent arrears when someone dies? ›

If the person who has died lived on their own, any arrears will be paid out of the estate. If there isn't enough money to do this, the money will no longer be owed.

Who pays rent when someone dies? ›

But, until then, the responsibility of the tenancy falls with the executor of the deceased's will. If, however, the tenant lived with somebody else, then that person is free to remain in the property until the end of the tenancy.

What happens if the lessee dies before the expiry of the lease? ›

A lease shall come to an end if the lessee dies before the expiry of ten years, the time till which the lease was made.

What does demise mean in a lease? ›

In property law, 'demise' means to transfer by lease. The phrase 'demised premises' generally refers to premises that have been transferred by lease, as opposed to the 'retained parts' which are not transferred but are retained by the landlord.

Are leases inheritable? ›

This for example means that a lease agreement as a contract (not an asset) is not automatically transferable by inheritance and can only be assigned as a contract with formal acceptance of the other party in the lease agreement (the owner) and registration on the title deed.

What is a successor tenant? ›

Succession is a legal term used when a person takes over a tenancy when the tenant dies. We call a person who inherits a tenancy the “successor”. When the original tenant passes his or her tenancy to someone else we count this as a succession so the person taking on the tenancy is a successor.

Can you use a deceased person's bank account to pay for their funeral? ›

Paying funeral expenses after a death

If the deceased had money in a bank account, the bank will generally release funds to pay for the funeral. They will need to see a copy of the funeral director's invoice together with a certified copy of the death certificate.

Is there a statute of limitations on rent arrears? ›

The six month time limit

A landlord must serve a notice, known as a Section 17 Notice, within 6 months of the debt falling due if they wish to recover the unpaid rent from a former tenant or guarantor.

How long is housing benefit paid after death? ›

Four weeks after the account was closed, a closing statement of the rent account will be sent to the executor, administrator or next of kin. If the person who has died was receiving Housing Benefit, the payment of benefit stops at the date of death, and therefore will not cover any charges after this date.

Can lease rights be inherited? ›

Kishore Pandurang Mantri & Anr8 : The SC conclusively held that the tenancy rights upon the demise of the original tenant of premises can be inherited only on fulfilment of two requisites: The person must be a member of the tenant's family. He must have been residing with the tenant at the time of his death.

Why lease is for 99 years and not 100? ›

The development authority of a particular area provides land development rights to developers and sells properties for a lease of 99 years. This means that anyone who purchases a residential or commercial property will own it only for a period of 99 years, after which the ownership is given back to the landowner.

How long can a tenant stay after the lease expires? ›

A holdover tenant is a tenant who stays in the rental unit after the lease expires. If the tenant continues to pay rent, the tenancy essentially becomes a month-to-month tenancy. A holdover tenant is legally allowed to stay in the rental unit as long as the landlord takes no action to remove them.

What is the difference between death and demise? ›

demise | American Dictionary

fml (of a person) Demise means death.

What is an example of demise? ›

The demise of something or someone is their end or death. ...the demise of the reform movement.

What does right to demise mean? ›

A “demise” or “lease” is the grant of a right to the exclusive possession of land for a determinate term less than that which the grantor has himself in the land.

Is lease transferable and heritable? ›

A lease is transferable and heritable. A license is neither transferable or heritable. Lessee gets a proprietary right in respect of the land; this right is called demise.

Can leased property be willed? ›

a leasehold property cannot be gifted unless its tenure is changed to freehold. A leasehold property will always remain property of the lessor. The leasehold rights, however, can be gifted with the prior permission of the lessor.

How do you handle inherited rental property? ›

Because your inherited rental property is treated as an investment property by the IRS, you'll be liable for paying capital gains tax when you sell the property. However, you can defer paying capital gains tax by conducting a 1031 exchange to replace your inherited rental property with another investment property.

Can a family member take over my tenancy? ›

Relatives of an assured tenant

Family members of an assured tenant can inherit the tenancy only if the tenancy agreement says this can happen. Many housing association assured tenancy agreements let a relative succeed when the tenant had no spouse, civil partner or partner living with them.

What documents do you need for succession? ›

All applicants
  • Death Certificate.
  • Applicant's full Birth Certificate.
  • Passport, Driving Licence or other photo ID.
  • Proof of residency at time of death, e.g. Bank Statements, Pension Credit letters, or DWP documentation.

Who is considered a successor? ›

One who follows or comes into the place of another. This term is applied more particularly to a sole corporation, or to any corporation. The word heir is more correctly applicable to a common person who takes an estate by descent.

Does Social Security notify bank of death? ›

If a payment was issued after the person's death, Social Security will contact the bank to ask for the return of those funds. If the bank didn't already know about the person's death at that point, this request from Social Security will alert them that the account holder is no longer living.

When a person dies does their bank account get frozen? ›

Yes. If the bank account is solely titled in the name of the person who died, then the bank account will be frozen. The family will be unable to access the account until an executor has been appointed by the probate court.

What happens if you don't file taxes for a deceased person? ›

If you don't file taxes for a deceased person, the IRS can take legal action by placing a federal lien against the Estate. This essentially means you must pay the federal taxes before closing any other debts or accounts. If not, the IRS can demand the taxes be paid by the legal representative of the deceased.

Do you have to attend court for rent arrears? ›

If you have rent arrears, your landlord may try and evict you. This is called seeking possession. To do this, in most cases they will need to follow a procedure which involves getting a court order. They can't make you leave your home without going to court first.

What is a section 17 notice? ›

17 notice which specifies the amounts due within 6 months beginning with the date when the charge becomes due. The prescribed form of notice informs the former tenant or guarantor about the liability and protects a landlord's right to seek payment. You should serve this notice even if the tenant is on a payment plan.

How do I get rid of rent arrears? ›

Paying back the rent you owe

You can offer to pay back extra on top of your rent every month or week over a certain period of time, until the arrears are paid off. This is called a 'repayment plan'. Your landlord might agree to this rather than end your tenancy because they want to get back the money you owe.

Do benefits stop as soon as someone dies? ›

Benefit payments will not automatically stop when someone dies. After registering the death, you will need to tell the government to stop their benefit payments.

What happens if the deceased received monthly benefits? ›

What happens if the deceased received monthly benefits? If the deceased was receiving Social Security benefits, you must return the benefit received for the month of death and any later months. For example, if the person died in July, you must return the benefits paid in August.

How much is the one time death benefit? ›

Pension Sense blog | September 28, 2022 | Barbara Zumwalt

With this increase, the payment following the death of a retired member is $6,903 (up from $6,480). For a death prior to retirement, the payment for Coverage A members is also $6,903, while the payment for Coverage B members is $27,612 (up from $25,920).

Can leasehold rights be inherited? ›

There is no provision in the Act regulating the rights of its heirs to inherits the tenancy rights of the tenanted commercial or business premises. The tenancy rights devolved on the heirs under the ordinary law of succession.

Can someone inherit a leasehold property? ›

Can you inherit a leasehold property? Yes. When the sole leaseholder dies, the remainder of their lease will be inherited by the benefactors of their Will.

Can you inherit leasehold flat? ›

As long as the current owner starts the enfranchisement before the sale is complete, you can inherit and continue the process. New government reforms will make extending a lease easier and cheaper for leaseholders.

Where the tenant of a long commercial lease dies does the tenancy automatically terminate or does it vest in the tenant's personal representatives? ›

It is important to understand that just because you tenant is deceased the tenancy does not end. The tenancy can only be ended by those who are: The executor – someone named in a will as the person who will deal with the deceased possessions (similar to representative described above)

Who owns the property in a leasehold? ›

You only own a leasehold property for a fixed period of time. You'll have a legal agreement with the landlord (sometimes known as the 'freeholder') called a 'lease'. This tells you how many years you'll own the property. Ownership of the property returns to the landlord when the lease comes to an end.

Who holds deeds to a leasehold property? ›

This is usually the solicitor or conveyancer acting on behalf of the buyer. So, if you're trying to track down your original deeds, they could be with the solicitor who acted for you when you bought the property, or possibly with your mortgage company if you have a mortgage.

Is it normal for ground rent to double every 25 years? ›

If a doubling ground rent clause exists in your lease, the ground rent you pay each year will begin as a relatively small amount, but this amount will double at intervals of 10 or 20 years over the course of your lease.

What rights do you have with a leasehold property? ›

You have the right to:
  • get information about service charges or insurance.
  • know the landlord's (freeholder's) name and address.
  • be consulted about certain maintenance and running costs.
  • challenge certain charges under some circumstances.

Why would anyone buy a leasehold property? ›

Owning a leasehold gives you the right to live in a property for a set period of time, which can be years, decades or centuries. But it's important to understand that in the eyes of the law, you're essentially a tenant of the freeholder for that period.

What does succession of tenancy mean? ›

Succession is a legal term used when a person takes over a tenancy when the tenant dies. We call a person who inherits a tenancy the “successor”. When the original tenant passes his or her tenancy to someone else we count this as a succession so the person taking on the tenancy is a successor.

What are the methods for ending a lease? ›

What are your options for getting out of a lease?
  • terminate the lease under a break clause;
  • negotiate termination with the landlord;
  • assign the lease - ie sell it to a new tenant;
  • sublet the premises, or part of the premises.

Can a landlord be forced to accept a surrender of a lease? ›

Outside of the context of insolvency a lease can only be surrendered consensually, in other words a landlord cannot be forced or obliged to agree a surrender and there may be good reason why a landlord chooses not to accept a surrender.


1. Understanding Your Healthcare Space Lease
(Florida Healthcare Law Firm)
2. What To Do When Someone Important in Your Life Dies: CRUCIAL Actions
3. An Overview at the California Landlords & Tenants Rights & Responsibilities
(Mike Dunfee Group)
4. Encore Learning - Leasing Existing Apartments in a New Construction Market
5. Abandoned Rental Property: What To Know
6. Notice is Required By Law to be given to the Legal Heirs of the Person that Passed Away
(Asset Protection & Elder Law Center)

Top Articles

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Fr. Dewey Fisher

Last Updated: 10/13/2022

Views: 6239

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (62 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Fr. Dewey Fisher

Birthday: 1993-03-26

Address: 917 Hyun Views, Rogahnmouth, KY 91013-8827

Phone: +5938540192553

Job: Administration Developer

Hobby: Embroidery, Horseback riding, Juggling, Urban exploration, Skiing, Cycling, Handball

Introduction: My name is Fr. Dewey Fisher, I am a powerful, open, faithful, combative, spotless, faithful, fair person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.