My Landlord Died, is my Lease Still Valid?
We received another Crushing Debt Podcast listener question this week: “My lease expires in 8 months and my landlord just passed away. What are my rights?”
Most every lease (at least the ones that we draft) should have a provision in it that says that the rights and responsibilities of the contract pass to any heirs, successors or assigns of the parties. That means that the landlord’s heirs or successors must continue to honor the lease provisions.
However, that brings up another issue as to how the landlord owns title to the property:
- Individually (in the landlord’s personal name): The landlord’s heirs must file a probate to have the Court determine who will own title to the house.
- In an LLC or Corporation: The LLC or Corporate documents must be reviewed to see what happens to the property when the owner passes. The LLC or Corporation cannot “die” (although it can be wound up and terminated) so in this instance, I’ll assume the owner of the LLC or Corporation has passed. Is there another owner? If a sole owner, is the LLC or Corporation supposed to be liquidated and the assets distributed somewhere?
- Trust: Similar to an LLC or Corporation, what do the trust documents say? Assuming the owner is the beneficiary of the trust, is the trustee instructed to distribute the trust assets to someone? Is there a co-beneficiary that now owns the property?
Of course, these are all Landlord issues. For the tenant who’s landlord passes away, our recommendation would be to communicate with the deceased’s heirs and continue paying rent as you have previously and wait for the probate court, LLC / Corp owner, or Successor Trustee / Beneficiary to contact you with new written instructions (and proof of ownership now that the owner is deceased). In the meantime, if you stop paying rent, once ownership is determined, the new landlord may start an eviction. If you pay rent and keep records of the payments, you can likely defeat any eviction action brought by the new owner.
Generally, because the lease contract likely says that heirs and successors are bound, you cannot be kicked out or evicted before the end of the written lease agreement, as long as you continue to pay rent and abide by the terms of the lease.
For more information on leases or landlord tenant law, please contact us to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your options at 813-774-5737 or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also order Crushing Debt: 9 Strategies to Eliminate Financial Bullies on Amazon.com. Please also subscribe to the Crushing Debt Podcast, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast players, including Amazon Echo (“Alexa”) for more free information about these topics.
Shawn M. Yesner, Esq., is the host of the Crushing Debt Podcast and founder of Yesner Law, P.L., a Tampa-based boutique real estate and consumer law firm that helps clients eliminate the financial bullies in their lives. We assist clients with asset protection, the sale and purchase of real property, Chapter 7 liquidation, Chapter 13 reorganization, bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, debt settlement, landlord/tenant issues, short sales, and loan modifications in Tampa, Westchase, Odessa, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor, Clearwater, Pinellas Park, Largo, St. Petersburg, and throughout the greater Tampa Bay Area.