Ask Member Support: Property left by a deceased tenant
A long-term tenant has sadly passed away recently and we are unclear as to how we should deal with her possessions. She did not leave a will. We’ve been in touch with her children who have told us that they have no intention of dealing with her estate, including the possessions she left behind. Her emergency contact person has been to the unit a few times since her passing and has removed a few sentimental items, but has so far not dealt with the most pressing item: her car, which is parked in the garage.
As the entire estate looks to be valued at under $10,000, the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT) will not manage it. Are we allowed to dispose of the tenant’s possessions (including their car) after a certain amount of time has passed?
Handling a deceased tenant’s possessions is a delicate situation, even in the most straightforward cases. It is made more complicated when the tenant in question did not leave a will or the next-of-kin are not able or unwilling to manage the estate. As this is one of those situations, we recommend you seek legal counsel on this matter.
As the landlord, you cannot dispose of any of the tenant’s belongings until after the tenancy is legally terminated 30 days following their death. Once the termination date has passed, you may sell, keep, or dispose of any property that remains in the unit. Removing the car from the property is a more complicated process – we’ll go into more details on this below. Make an inventory of these items and consider taking photographs – the estate trustee (if one is appointed), administrator, or a member of the tenant’s family has up to six months following that to claim any property you have removed, retained, or sold.
There are a few additional things for you to consider in this situation. Is the emergency contact planning to file for an appointment as the estate trustee? They will need legal authority to change the ownership of the car into their name. You might also consider notifying them in writing that the car is now parked illegally and will be tagged and towed at the estate’s expense at a certain date; this may prompt them into action.
The municipal bylaw should provide for the removal and impounding of vehicles parked illegally on private property at the owner’s (or in this case the estate’s expense). The bylaw will allow for the police, municipal by-law enforcement officers or other duty-appointed officers to have the car tagged, towed and stored. In light of COVID-19, these services may be limited. I would call your local police services for more information. You should also consider clearly outlining the removal process in your parking policy so that tenants understand the consequences of abandoning a vehicle on the property.
Rather than relying on a conversation with the tenant’s children, ask them for a written statement stating that they are declining to deal with the estate. Again, your legal counsel will be able to tell you what you might need in this regard.
Do you have concerns about issues relating to the death of a tenant? Check out our Death of a Tenant resource suite to help you with legal requirements, precautions, and best practices and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. We’re always happy to hear from you, and to help!
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