Landlord Rights when Tenant Dies

by Melissa

When does a landlord have the right to enter premises after the tenant dies?

Our best friend passed away and he was renting from a cop. Two days after his death and prior to the end of his paid month of rent, the landlord came and changed the locks and the security code so that the next-of-kin could not gain entrance and remove his belongings from the rental. The landlord finally let us gain entrance two days after the paid month was up.

Also, when we finally were allowed to enter the premises we found that there were items missing, big ticket items. The landlord also stated that since the tenant died all contracts were void and no last months rent or deposits would be returned.

My friend was also purchasing furniture from the landlord and had paid $1700 towards the $5000 bill. The landlord will not furnish any receipts for the payments to which he stated to us he had none.

My questions are: Can the landlord legally enter the premises to which the rent has been paid for that month, are the contracts (rental agreement and contract for furniture) legally voided and is the landlord liable for the missing items?

Comments for Landlord Rights when Tenant Dies

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Landlord and Tenant Rights
by: Anonymous

Most of the answers depend on what the terms of the rental agreement were - usually this is in writing but can of course also be an oral agreement.
Normally, a landlord does have the right of inspection of his property, at reasonable times.

He may also have provided for a lien over the contents in the event that the tenant died or went insolvent, whatever. The contract may also have provided for no deposit-return, although this seems unlikely. 

A friend has no right to the rental; usually a rental (of this residential sort) is personal i.e. between landlord and tenant only.

Yes, the landlord is liable for the missing items, even if he did have a lien.  Normally this is something that would be dealt with by the executor of the deceased estate (whether testate or intestate) - not even the 'best friends' can resolve this.

The purchase of the furniture is a different contract. As with most things in a legal dispute, it is a question of proof, which is why the friend should have insisted on a receipt for the payment made.  There are other ways of proof though - it may have been a check; electronic fund transfer; bank transfer, or there may be a diary note somewhere recording the payment. Maybe the deceased told his best friend after he had just emptied his wallet by paying the landlord. The landlord's bank account might show an injection of the cash sum, etc...

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