Death in a rental
I was talking to a real good friend named Nicole recently, and she had something happen in one of her houses that she wasn’t sure how to handle. It’s a very delicate situation that you as a landlord may run into at some point. And I thought I would share her story, what she learned and what she plans to do in case you ever encounter a similar situation.
She told me she got a call one morning from a long-term tenant who needed to speak with her ASAP. The purpose of the call was to inform her that the co-tenant at that property was deceased and that the tenant who was calling had already vacated.
She told me she was taken aback by this news — more the death than the vacancy. Naturally, she asked about the circumstances. As it turned out, the tenant had been out of town for the weekend. On Sunday they had tried to contact the co-tenant with no success. And when they got home, they discovered the co-tenant had died by suicide.
Nicole expressed her concern and empathy for the tenant, not only for their loss but also for having to discover the co-tenant in that state. But she told me she wasn’t sure what to say or what to do next. The tenant told her where in the house it had happened, when and that the police had been out to file a report.
She told me her first thought was that she needed to put eyes on the house to see what kind of logistical situation she was dealing with. So, she went ahead and set up a time to meet the tenant at the property.
As she hung up the phone, she said questions started racing through her mind. She told me she had no idea what to do. Should she contact her insurance company? Should she herself be in contact with law enforcement? Did she have any kind of liability to worry about? She wondered if she could even go into the house, or was this an active investigation with crime tape like you see in the movies?
Well, she decided to call the non-emergency 911 number first. There, she explained to the operator what had happened, when and that she was the property owner. The operator was quick to make sure this was not a new case. And after Nicole told her the date and that a report had been filed, the operator was able to retrieve the notes on it. The operator said their investigation was complete and that there was nothing, as far as they were concerned, that Nicole needed to do.
With that knowledge, she went out to the house.
Walking up to the front door, she said she no idea what to expect. But she said she was bracing herself because it happened in the living room, which would be the first room she saw when she opened the door.
She was surprised, she said, to find that the area was very clean. The tenant was there and explained that it was not like the movies. There was very little in the way of gore and a piece of furniture had absorbed most of the fluids.
The tenant went on to explain that everything had been cleaned while it was still fresh. And Nicole said that if you didn’t know about the incident, you would not be able to tell that it had occurred.
But just to make sure, she called a friend who works for a remediation company to ask what their protocol is for things like this. He said their policy is to remove any porous substrate that comes in contact with biological contents. That would include sheetrock, wood, fabric and even some kinds of tile. She asked about LVP, and he said that since it was not porous, it could be cleaned.
Next, she contacted her insurance man to see if he needed to know about the issue. And he said that unless she was trying to file a claim for a cleanup, it was no concern for them.
All that was a relief to her.
She told me her next issue was still to come and wanted to know what I thought. You see, that property is rent ready and she’s not sure how this whole situation is going to affect getting new tenants because some people get weirded out when they know someone has died inside a house.
I told her I thought she should be upfront about it and told her about a friend of mine who learned this the hard way. He marketed a house for sale and told everyone the previous owner had died, and that’s how he got the house. He neglected to mention the person died in the house. On the day of the sale, the buyers stopped by to do their final inspection. That’s when the neighbor told them that the person had died inside. They got weirded out and canceled the contract because of it.
I told her if it were me, I would let prospective tenants know early on in the application process that someone had died inside and see if it posed an issue. If not, she could move forward, and everyone would be happy. She said she’d learned a lot through this situation and thought my suggestion was a good way to handle new tenants if you ever have a death in a rental.
Joe and Ashley English buy houses and mobile homes in Northwest Georgia. For more information or to ask a question, go to www.cashflowwithjoe.com or call Joe at 678-986-6813.