Landlords frequently ask me what they must do when a tenant dies. The main rule in property law is that the lease between the parties does not end due to the death of the tenant. However, different rules apply to living space, such as a residential apartment.
This post was reviewed and updated on 5 June 2020
Tenant living alone
The situation after the death of a tenant depends on whether or not there are other tenants, co-tenants or residents in that living space. In the case of a single tenant living alone, the agreement ends automatically at the end of the second calendar month. The heirs of the tenant can cancel at an earlier time, namely at the end of the first month after the death.
For example: if the tenant dies on 29 June, the heirs can cancel by 31 July. If they fail to do so, the agreement will automatically end on 31 August. If the property is not subsequently vacated, the lessor can sue the heirs as legal successors under a general title until eviction. In the event that the heirs reject the estate, the lease ends after two months and the lessor can proceed to eviction.
Tenants left behind
In the event that a tenant is left behind, he or she will continue the agreement. A co-tenant can also continue the agreement, however they can cancel within 6 months of the death against the 1st of the calendar month. The cancellation period is 1 month.
This provision is particularly important for a fixed-term lease, which can be terminated prematurely upon the death of the tenant.
If there are remaining roommates, the following applies. If the cohabitant wants to remain a tenant, they must file a claim with the court within a period of six months. This deadline can be considered to be final. For as long as no decision is made on the claim, the lease will continue, including during the appeal. The law lists three grounds for rejecting a claim from a cohabitant:
- The cohabitant has not made it plausible that there is a sustainable joint household. The tenant must demonstrate that they have run a joint household that was focused on the future and was not of a descending nature;
- The cohabitant is financially unable to pay the rent;
- The housing permit required for the home in accordance with the Housing Act has not been obtained.
The cohabitant simply has to pay rent over the period after the death. If they become a tenant, they become jointly and severally liable for the obligations arising from the lease that have arisen after the death. In the event of one of the grounds for rejection, the remaining cohabitant remains “without a right or title” in the home, which results in grounds for eviction.
For questions or further information about this topic, you can contact our experts in tenancy law.