This Probably Never Happened to You, but …No. 247

Last Updated: April 5, 2024By

One of our tenants from unit No. 3 had been in the hospital for several days, suffering from the effects of an on-going illness. Unfortunately, and to our sadness, she did not survive.

Beyond our sadness, there were legal issues to be settled. When she first rented with us more than a decade ago, she was the only tenant. A few years later, still many years ago, she asked us to add her partner to the rental agreement. In a lapse of our better judgment, our office simply made a note of the partner’s name, and thereafter treated them as co-tenants. No new lease was written or signed. The partner was never asked to sign the original lease. As such, it made no difference to us who called for maintenance issues, or which of them paid the rent. Sometimes our original tenant would pay the rent, sometimes her partner would pay. They were fine tenants, always paid their rent, and were good neighbors. We were treating them as co-tenants.

All seemed to be going fine … until our original tenant died. One of the provisions of our lease is that at the termination of a contract, and move-out of all occupants, the proper balance of any security deposit will be sent to all adult tenants named in the lease. You can see the problem this presents. We still have a good, qualified tenant (who did not pay into the original security deposit) occupying the property, and an obligation, sooner-or-later, to send the balance of that deposit to an appropriate heir of our original tenant whose name is on the lease.

We are about half-way through the appropriate resolution of this. The surviving partner will enter into a new lease, he will accept the property “as is”, and he will pay in the same amount of security deposit that our original tenant paid. We are working with our attorney to determine who is the proper heir to the original security deposit, as it must be sent to someone. We do have a name and contact information for our original tenant’s son, but that is not enough to determine that the son is entitled to the balance of the security deposit.

The lesson of all of this is that if a new adult joins in tenancy, it will save you much time and future aggravation if you bring together all interested parties and enter into a new rental agreement. That is what we have been doing for years now, and it has worked well for us.

Written by C. Finley Beven, JD, CPM, CCAM

This article is the 247th in a series based on the lessons we have learned the hard way.The contents of these articles are merely opinions of the writer. They are not intended as specific legal advice and should not be relied upon for that purpose. Our practice is inconstant refinement as we adjust the way we operate to an ever- changing market. I appreciate your questions, comments, suggestions, and solutions.


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