Member support: When a tenant passes away
Question: I’m a property manager in a building with a few tenants who live alone and rarely receive visitors. If one of them were to pass away in their unit, I’m fairly certain I would be the one to discover them. How can I prepare for the likely discovery of a deceased tenant?
Answer: Discovering a deceased tenant can be upsetting for staff. Having a plan in place before it happens can greatly reduce emotional stress and legal issues down the road.
If you suspect a tenant is ill or has passed away, call 911. The police or emergency services might direct you to open the door to the unit. If you have reason to believe there is a physical hazard to entering the unit (e.g., the tenant has a protective dog), you should let the police or paramedics know before they enter the unit. If you are directed to enter the unit before emergency services arrive, bring a second staff member with you, if possible.
If you discover a deceased tenant while in the unit for a routine inspection or maintenance visit, call 911 immediately. Once the police or paramedics arrive on the scene, they will contact the coroner to determine cause of death. Once the coroner’s investigation is complete and the body is removed, it is your responsibility to secure the unit, which may include changing the locks.
When staff discover a deceased tenant they are often upset or traumatized by the incident. It is important for employers to recognize the effects of the experience and support their employees. If you have an employee assistance program in place, advise your employee to make an appointment with a counsellor. They may need time off or modified duties. Keep the lines of communication open and ensure the employee has the support they need.
Both residents and staff may want to celebrate the life of the tenant. Even if the tenant was not well known, neighbours may still grieve the loss. You can help by sharing a funeral announcement or helping tenants organize their own memorial.