What is the eviction process if the landlord dies?
If your landlord dies, you may wonder if you still have a home or if you will suddenly be evicted. And, as a landlord, what happens if your tenant dies? Is the estate liable for the rent or are you going to be left high and dry?
What is the eviction process if the landlord or tenant dies? The short answer is…the lease remains valid. The landlord’s or the tenant’s estate is bound by the lease and must honour the terms and conditions of the agreement. (Download a lease agreement template here.)
Can you be evicted immediately if the landlord dies?
As stressed in previous articles, having a written lease agreement is crucial as it protects the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords alike and makes dealing with the above scenario a whole lot simpler. Additionally, once the Rental Housing Amendment Act 35 of 2014 comes into effect, landlords will be compelled to draw up a written lease agreement.
Lease agreements are not simply rendered invalid if the landlord dies. The tenant cannot be summarily evicted from a property. However, the terms of the lease agreement will determine the conditions under which the lease may be terminated.
For example, a lease agreement may specify that the contract will automatically be cancelled when the landlord passes away. Should the executor of the landlord’s estate decide to sell the property, the executor is entitled to cancel the lease. Regardless of the reason for the cancellation of a lease, the landlord must generally give the tenant at least 20 working days’ to a full calendar month’s notice to vacate the premises in accordance with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act No 19 of 1998 (PIE).
If the tenant does not adhere to the time frame, the executor may then approach the court to apply for an eviction order.
When the tenant dies the estate is liable
If the tenant dies, the estate becomes liable for the rent and must give the landlord 20 business days’ notice of cancellation of the lease. The landlord cannot remove the tenant’s belongings during that time. It may be wise for both tenants and landlords to establish the cancellation clauses in lease agreements to avoid uncertainty or any nasty surprises down the line.