Death of a Tenant: your responsibilities as a community housing provider
This information is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion.
Most community housing providers will at some point, find themselves facing the difficult situation of a tenant having passed away in their unit. While the circumstances of each individual situation will be different, your organization should be prepared to handle the death of a tenant safely and compassionately while taking appropriate steps to ensure legal compliance. ONPHA’s new Death of a Tenant suite of resources (free for all ONPHA Housing Members and Service Manager Partners) acts as a guide to one of the most difficult duties that landlords will encounter. In this article, we will provide an overview of the first steps to take in dealing with the death of a tenant.
You suspect a tenant may have passed away in their unit
As a landlord, if you suspect a tenant has passed away in their unit, your first action should be to call the police. Police officers are permitted to enter the unit and take appropriate next steps.
Remember, if there is no direct cause for concern for the tenant’s welfare, you must follow the notice of entry rules under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (RTA) and provide 24 hours’ written notice. The RTA allows entry without notice if the landlord believes that a tenant’s safety is being threatened or that property damage will occur.
You find a tenant dead inside the unit
If, acting as a landlord you discover a deceased person upon legally entering a unit, you must exit the unit and call 911 immediately.
Leave the unit as you find it so police can inspect the scene in the case the death was not due to natural causes. Remember, the police are permitted to look through the tenant’s belongings but you, as the landlord are not.
Dealing with the coroner
It is the role of the police to contact the coroner to confirm the tenant’s death, determine cause and remove the body. Ask for identification before allowing the coroner into the unit and make a note of the date, time and details of their entry.
Secure the unit
Once the coroner has completed their inspection and removed the body, as the landlord you are responsible for changing the locks on the unit and preventing anyone other than the estate trustee/executor from entering.
Allowing access to the deceased tenant’s unit can be a delicate situation. The estate trustee/executor may not want other family members to have access to the unit. As the landlord you must have the estate trustee/executor’s consent before allowing anyone into the unit. Be sure to ask for visitor identification and document all entries. Review Death of a Tenant: Allowing Access to a Deceased Tenant’s Unit for more details.
Ending the tenancy
If the tenant is the sole occupant of the unit, the tenancy is legally terminated 30 days after their death. The tenant’s estate is responsible for paying the pro-rated rent for the 30-day period after their death.
This is just a brief overview of the steps involved in dealing with the death of a tenant. Situations vary in complexity and the amount of involvement necessary from housing provider staff. Access InfoON: Death of a Tenant for a more detailed analysis of the issues presented above and information on:
- handling the tenant’s property
- dealing with a deceased tenant’s spouse when they are not on the lease
- notifying next of kin
- verifying the estate trustee/next of kin
- sharing information about the death
- supporting tenants in your community
- potential scenarios you may face when dealing with the death of a tenant
The Death of a Tenant suite also includes the following in-depth resources:
- Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID)
- Allowing Access to a Deceased Tenant’s Unit
- Searching for Next of Kin
This set of resources also includes two customizable templates for your organization to adapt for use:
- Sample Deceased Tenant Policy
- Sample Emergency Contact Form
The death of a tenant is a difficult situation for all involved. Be sure your organization has policies and procedures in place to assist you if and when the need arises.
Click here to order the Death of a Tenant suite of resources.
Have questions about this topic or other operational issues? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always happy to help.