Although the question might seem a little morbid, it is important for a tenant to be aware of his rights and obligations in the unfortunate event that his landlord dies during the tenancy. The following are answers to many commonly posed questions that arise in such a situation.
Does The Lease Terminate?
No, unless it specifically states otherwise. Leases generally stay with the property they cover. Accordingly, if the landlord dies, the lease continues to be valid and enforceable by both the tenant and the succeeding landlord.
Where Does The Rent Go?
Unless informed otherwise, the tenant should continue sending rent payments to the address identified by the lease. If the rent is returned as undeliverable, the tenant should keep the envelope as evidence that he or she attempted to continue payments.
Who Becomes The New Landlord?
Who the new landlord is depends on how the property was titled and how the landlord’s estate is ultimately settled. For example, if title to the property was held by means of survivorship deed, then the individual named in the deed with rights of survivorship becomes owner of the property. If the landlord was the sole holder of title to the property, then it will likely be considered part of his estate, which will be distributed the appropriate probate court.
If the landlord was a corporation or a limited liability company, and there are other partners, then the company will survive the death of the landlord and the other partners will presumably take over. If the landlord was the only owner in the company, then the company’s assets will become part of the landlord’s estate.
What If The Lease Expires Before The Landlord’s Estate Is Settled?
The settling of an estate generally takes months, and, in some cases, years. Because most residential leases are only a year or less, there’s a good chance it will expire before the landlord’s estate gets settled. In Chicago, a landlord is required to provide a tenant with at least 30 days written notice of their intention not to renew a lease. Accordingly, until the new landlord provides the appropriate notice, the tenant may continue to stay at the property under a month-to-month tenancy.
How Does The Tenant Get A Security Deposit Back?
The first step a tenant should take to ensure the return of his or her security deposit is to provide a forwarding address to administrator of the landlord’s estate upon moving out. It is also a good idea to remind the administrator that he is required to provide a list of itemized deductions within thirty days and the rest of the deposit within forty five days. In the event the landlord’s estate fails to return the security deposit within the prescribed time, the tenant may sue the estate under the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant.