California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr Lease

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Latest post 11-06-2012 8:15 PM by adjuster jack. 17 replies.
  • 10-24-2012 1:16 PM

    • midas
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    California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr Lease

    Hi, we are new to this - our first time being a LL and have to deal with this. We feel terrible for the tenant (single gentleman, nice guy staying by himself) who passed away in a bike accident and his family but also have to watch out for our interest.

    The family (mother and half brother) have already vacated the property and cleaned it and gave us a 30-day verbal notice to terminate lease and letting us inspect the property today and hand over the keys as they are going back to their home state. We have verbally accepted and said we will work our best to re-rent the property in the next 30 days and the deposit is safe with us. As part of the original lease agreement, in addition to the security deposit, Tenanat has already paid Last month's rent at Move-in. So we are covered (for the rent portion) if we can rent the property in the next 30-45 days.

    Mother already has got a Power of Attorney to sign for her son (tenant) and willing to supply us with a copy. His dad was seperated from his Mom and passed away few years back.

    A couple of questions -

    - Can any one point me or send me a California Lease Termination Form which deals with Deceased Tenant and security refunds to relatives if there is one ?

    - Tenant had not mentioned his Mom or Brother at all during the stay and times we talked, he had his Grand father and Aunt as Reference and Emergency contact. Also his Grand father was overseeing his inheritance account / CDs etc from his late Dad - as a trustee or something like that. 

    - Can I trust the Mom and Power of Attorney and refund the Security Deposit to her? What do I need to make sure I am not liable for this amount or any othe amount owed to anybody else (Grand father / Aunt) in the future ?

    Hence I needed a full proof Lease Termination agreement which will protect me and my family from future liablilty claims. The family I met seems to be nice and I do not anticipate such but you never know as Money is the root of all evil, imho.

    Thank you in advance and really appreciate the Professionals who devote their time to the community.

    -jd
    jdrnb007-7@ y a h o o

     

     

     

     

     

  • 10-24-2012 1:33 PM In reply to

    • DPH
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    Re: California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr Lease

    midas:
    gave us a 30-day verbal notice to terminate lease

    I'm not 100% sure, but you may not have to terminate the lease just because the tenant is deceased.  It is possible that his estate would be responsible for the rent until such time as you either re-rent the unit or agree to terminate the lease. 

    Visit this website for information:  www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/index.shtml

     

     

    "Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."  -  Mark Twain

     

  • 10-24-2012 1:43 PM In reply to

    Re: California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr Lease

    "Mother already has got a Power of Attorney to sign for her son (tenant) and willing to supply us with a copy."

    A power of attorney is no good after the issuer dies, and we can't know whether you mean a letter of administration with regard to her son's estate.  Technically speaking, you oughtn't have let anyone into the apartment if you didn't see a letter of administration/testamentary issued to a particular person wanting access.

    "Can any one point me or send me a California Lease Termination Form which deals with Deceased Tenant and security refunds to relatives if there is one ?"

    There won't be such a form.  :)

    "... he had his Grand father and Aunt as Reference and Emergency contact."

    So why did you let the mother and brother into his place?  (I'm gonna presume they didn't have a key, or that they fenagled his personal possessions from someone in government/law enforcement after the accident?)

    "Can I trust the Mom and Power of Attorney and refund the Security Deposit to her?"

    Nope.  You hold into any monies until you ascertain who is in charge of this person's estate.

    You woulndn't be "liable" for anything but to the tenant's estate.

    I suggest that you confer with a local real estate attorney.  I'd say this even if you weren't a newbie landlord, but if you intend to continue owning investment property and managing it yourself, you need to learn a lot more about basic contract law, etc. before delving into how to handle unusual scenarios such as this.

  • 10-24-2012 2:10 PM In reply to

    Re: California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr Lease

    midas:
    Can any one point me or send me a California Lease Termination Form which deals with Deceased Tenant and security refunds to relatives if there is one ?

    No.

    But I can point you to the statute 1950.5 at:

    http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=civ&group=01001-02000&file=1940-1954.1

    Your obligation to the estate would be the same as your obligation to the tenant. Just as the obligation of the estate to you would be the same as the tenant.

    midas:
    Tenant had not mentioned his Mom or Brother at all during the stay and times we talked, he had his Grand father and Aunt as Reference and Emergency contact. Also his Grand father was overseeing his inheritance account / CDs etc from his late Dad - as a trustee or something like that. 

    That's a statement, not a question.

    But if you want to be sticky about it you are entitled to see the probate court papers that appoint a representative of the estate or confirm the executor of the estate. You can also be sticky about dealing only with that individual.

    See next question as to how not to be sticky.

    midas:
    Can I trust the Mom and Power of Attorney and refund the Security Deposit to her? What do I need to make sure I am not liable for this amount or any othe amount owed to anybody else (Grand father / Aunt) in the future ?

    The best and only legal way to handle the refund is make a check out to "The Estate of_____________." Then it doesn't matter who you hand it to. Any correspondence should be addressed to "The Estate of ____________" using a "care of" address.

    Keep in mind that Powers of Attorney are no longer valid after the death of the tenant. It's the probate court papers that count.

    midas:
    Hence I needed a full proof Lease Termination agreement which will protect me and my family from future liablilty claims.

    You really don't need anything like that but it would probably be a good idea to use a move out inventory of the condition of the property. You can probable find one online. Make two copies in the name of the tenant and I suggest set it up for only your signature because the signature of anybody who isn't the court appointed person is not going to do you any good.

    midas:
    The family I met seems to be nice and I do not anticipate such but you never know as Money is the root of all evil, imho.

    And love goes out the door when money comes in the window.

    I think you'll be safe enough using my suggestions.

    By the way, you have a duty to mitigate which means you have to re-rent as soon as reasonably possible. You don't get to just take your time to run out the deposit.

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 10-24-2012 2:14 PM In reply to

    Re: California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr Lease

    midas:
    - Tenant had not mentioned his Mom or Brother at all during the stay and times we talked, he had his Grand father and Aunt as Reference and Emergency contact.

    Have you contacted the Emergency contact (the aunt, right?)?

    Before allowing anyone to clear out his possessions, you should have asked for proof that the person was the legally-appointed Executor or personal representative of the tenant's estate.  It's possible that his mother and brother have no right to the stuff they took away - all his possessions including the security deposit now belong to his estate and not to this or that relative.

    You should do your best to find out who has been appointed Executor or Personal Representative for the estate, and send the security deposit refund check, payable to the Estate of [deceased tenant's name], to that person.  Probably should get their written agreement to terminate the lease before doing so;  it's unlikely they will want to continue the lease, but you never know.

  • 10-24-2012 3:49 PM In reply to

    • midas
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    Re: California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr L...

    Oh thank you DPH, I almost said Mark Twain :)

    So helpful:

    "Tenant's death
    Suppose that a tenant who has a tenancy for a specified term (for example, a one-year lease) dies. the tenancy continues until the end of the lease term, despite the tenant's
    death. Responsibility for the rest of the lease term passes to the tenant's executor or administrator.

    Now suppose instead that the tenant had a month-to-month tenancy. in this case, the tenancy is terminated (ended) by notice of the tenant's death. The tenancy ends on the 30th day following the tenant's last payment of rent before the tenant's death. no 30-day or 60-day notice is
    required to terminate the tenancy.
    "

     

  • 10-24-2012 3:58 PM In reply to

    • midas
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    Re: California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr L...

    Thank you Chancey.

    No, she mentioned Power of Attorney.

    Second, I only came to know of it last night after a full one week had passed. The family (mother who is from out of state) was informed by local law enforcement and she flew down with her other son and Uncle. They were handed the keys, DL and other stuff her son carried by Police. They then used the same to enter the property and vacate it. Most of the stuff was Rental it seems. Once the house was cleaned and ready for inspection they called me. And to be honest, I do not blame them if they did not think about their rights and attorneys and estates, etc.

    Yes, I was considering creating a Trust for my investment property(s) but was not getting the time or motivation to talk to a Real Estate Attorney. I guess time is up !

    Again, thank you for your sensible advice.

    -jd

  • 10-24-2012 4:09 PM In reply to

    Re: California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr L...

    Too bad police aren't too understanding/cognizant of what can result from their ignorance (handing over personal property), but never mind. 

    "Yes, I was considering creating a Trust for my investment property(s) but was not getting the time or motivation to talk to a Real Estate Attorney. I guess time is up !"

    This isn't really what I was getting at.  Was talking more along the lines of simply understanding CA law/protocol vs. YOUR estate planning needs (and when you talk of creating a trust, that's ultimately what you're getting at).  :)

  • 10-24-2012 4:11 PM In reply to

    Re: California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr Lease

    The way I read it, mom had already received the keys from the police and cleaned the place out before midas knew he was dead.  Very likely he had local relatives listed as emergency contacts and they are the ones who called mom to let her know.

  • 10-24-2012 4:27 PM In reply to

    • midas
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    Re: California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr L...

    Jack, thank you for your help and suggestion.

    I looked up 1950.5 and other sections but did not find anything about deceased Tenant or Estate law. Infact found a few mentions of Landlord's death :).

    Also 1951.2 was helpful which talked about Lease breach / Termination but again does not talk about termination because of Death.

    And good to know about the Power of Attorney's validity and Probate Court papers.

    And yes, we did re-list the Property last night itself and will do our best to refund all or most of the Security Deposit.

    Just a few more Q if you do not mind:

    - Is it law that an Estate or Trustee Account needs to be opened for the deceased to handle all financial dealings - debt / credit obligations !?

    - So what official Lease termination form we have to fill up and sign? Do we go ahead and accept the 30-day written lease termination request / notice ? Can we preprare one by mutual agreement and signed by both parties and hold in Court for legal reasons.

    - And in cases of death, how much time I have to return the funds assuming I was able to re-rent the property in the next 30 days. I mean I ask them to open an Estate/Trust but they take their time...

    Thank you again so much for your valuable help.

     

     

  • 10-24-2012 4:42 PM In reply to

    • midas
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    Re: California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr L...

    Yes Karen, my wife did and the Aunt understood that we would like a waiver of some kind and she said she will call us back.

    About the Grandfather (living) as the Trustee on Tenant's deceased father's account, it seems that all the funds from that trust account was disbursed to the Tenant few months back according to the Mom and that he has nothing to do with her son's (tenant) financial. So in short, I should not worry about a waiver from him ?

    Talking about Estate, who can create an Estate for a deceased son in this case ? I mean can the Grandfather (father side) create one as well and the Mom creates one as well ? Who decides who can create an Estate / Trust for the deceased. If Court does, is there a legal document I can ask the Mom ? Is that Probate court paper Jack was referring to ?

    I am sorry if the questions I am asking are confusing but as a layman I feel they are valid.

  • 10-24-2012 5:39 PM In reply to

    Re: California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr Lease

    midas:
    Can any one point me or send me a California Lease Termination Form which deals with Deceased Tenant and security refunds to relatives if there is one ?

    I cannot point you to any form.  In terms of the security deposit.  If the deceased's estate will not be probated, let me suggest that you familiarize youself with Sections 13100 and 13101 of the Probate Code (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=prob&group=13001-14000&file=13100-13116) and consider whether turning over $$ to anyone who does not provide you with an affidavit under Section 13101 would be a good idea.

     

    midas:
    his Grand father was overseeing his inheritance account / CDs etc from his late Dad - as a trustee or something like that.

    I'm not sure what this means or why you have this info under your "couple of questions" heading.

     

    midas:
    Can I trust the Mom and Power of Attorney and refund the Security Deposit to her? What do I need to make sure I am not liable for this amount or any othe amount owed to anybody else (Grand father / Aunt) in the future ?

    Two things.  First, refer to my response above regarding PC 13100 and 13101.  Second, a power of attorney ceases to be effective at the moment of death.  Third, unless the guy was married or had kids or had a will that says otherwise, his mother (and father?) would be his only heir.

  • 10-24-2012 5:42 PM In reply to

    Re: California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr L...

    If there's no will, any heir at law can file to open a probate case (so can a creditor for that matter).

    A grandfather wouldn't be an heir at law, and this person being named an emergency contact doesn't create some obligation on your part to worry about him under the circumstances.  (If he's named in some will that's found later and thinks you allowed others into the place to take what they liked, who knows -- highly unlikely.)

    "Who decides who can create an Estate / Trust for the deceased. If Court does, is there a legal document I can ask the Mom ? Is that Probate court paper Jack was referring to ?"

    You've got an interesting way of posting questions, I'll give you that.  :)  The (local) court decides who will be charge of the estate, but I don't recall if a non-resident is free to act in that role (whomever it is that is out of state may need to get an attorney to do so).  As for "document," we've already mentioned the letter of administration (or, if a will nominating mother, a letter of testamentary) being a document that ought to be obtained by whomever is put in charge of the estate.

    Not sure what kind of waiver you'd need from whomever or for what purpose.

  • 10-25-2012 8:59 AM In reply to

    • Drew
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    Re: California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr Lease

    The California Landlords Law Book (On line)  Ch 19 has a pretty decent discussion of CA death of tenant matters --probably good idea to read it  before you send out any security deposits or sign any waivers --you sort of want an indemininfaction and to be sure any required security deposit be returned to "estate of  ----" ,  I'm not sure there is yet a deposit to be returned....slow down and double check.



  • 11-05-2012 9:26 PM In reply to

    • midas
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    Re: California - Tenant passes away in 6th month of a 1 yr L...

    Kind folks, need your help again..., suggest take a coffee before you read thru this :)

    Did not expect this to get nasty at all but it has...

    With discussions with the family of the deceased after our second meet Oct 25th:

    - The tenant's mother send us a Request to terminate lease and apply last months rent towards the November rent. We had verbally agreed to that and that based on that we will draw up a Early Lease Termination Agreement which both parties will need to sign and accept.

    - In Response to the above email request, we replied that we will get the Termination agreement drawn by that weekend (2-3 days) after. We downloaded the legal CA document from Legalzoom paid service and customized the document as to the terms under which we accept their request. Pretty much standard stuff, recital, compliance, liability, security deposit refund minus reletting cost incl marketing cost, etc. and using 1-2 days of our personal and precious time. It was sent to them on Oct 28th with Nov3rd deadline to sign and return or Pay Rent and till date they have been evading it.

    - They were also supposed to provide us an Executor / Administrator document last week but they have not provided so citing small estate. So far we have not recd. any legal or court document which tells me that they are legal administrator or executor.

    - We also kept emailing them for the signed termination agreement letting them know we have a eager qualified Tenant who is ready to move in immediately. And we had to tell them No or wait till we get this termination agreement so we can relet.

    - End of the last week, we recv. an email from some Estate Lawyer (Mr. Edgar, are you listening) claiming he is an Executor / Administrator of the Trust. "We represent the mother...of the deceased..." and this email gives you authority to release. And to send to him all Lease related documents.How can we do that w/o a letter from Mother appointing him as Executor as the application and lease documents contains tenant confidential information. So we respectfully ask him for that a few times and he keeps ignoring that like a Bad Robot and keeps asking us for Tenant lease information.

    - It is getting so annoying and frustrating and feels like Harrasment at this point. Over the weekend we told him that we will not entertain any future correspondance from his office till we see his appointment as Executor.

    _ Also on the weekend we emailed the Mother "Notice to Pay Rent or Quit" giving them 3 days (till the 7th) to pay November Rent or sign and return the Lease Termination Agreement. We also mailed via Priority Mail the original today to her address.

    - Guess what, today, we recd. another "Bad Robot" email asking us to Refund the last month rent and Security Deposit and they are only liable for Rent till Nov 2nd and that we did not re-let them the premise and warning us that they will pursue legal course if needed.

    WTF in the world is happening !?

    Only thing I guess we feel we might be dinged for is the extra deposit which the Tenant offered and we accepted. Tenant was low 600, high 500 score, single, but wanted to live in our nice house, no job but a veteran on disability with a decent savings/CD account. Terms of the lease before we met him were first month and 2 mos security deposit. Since we were not sure about his application but considering he served our Nation, we talked to him about an extra last month rent as well. But my wife learned that we cannot legally accept that extra month rent so we talked to the Tenant and said we cannot go forward with his Appl as we do not have enough security. At this point, he was so desperate and excited about this house, he offered us 6 mos rent in Advance which we said No but accepted an extra last month's rent and he gave it to us in writing that he is offering the last month's rent on his own will. And signed and dated it and we took that. Will that signed document from the Tenant hold in a court of law if we explain the above.

    Anyway, at this point, we are trying to search for some legal representation and serve them a legal threatening Notice to stop the harrassment and return the signed document. We have every intenetion of returning every dime owed but if it gets prolonged and nasty we will have to rethink that.

    We also want to possibly ding them legally that the family entered the tenant's premise and emptied everything incl all 3rd party stuff w/o a court or lawful document w/o notifying the landlord or w/o our consent. Cheapos, did not leave any tissue rolls behind (in any of the 3 toilets) and we felt so bad when a prospect's kid had to use the toilet and we were not aware. And were arguing with us about an extra water hose in the backyard. Which grieving mother cares about a $5 hose and small oil stains in garage when your 31 year old son has barely passed away.

    This has taken my peace and sleep away, so much of our precious time lost, we missed a few of my kids games, delayed her Science project due last week. Our 6 mos being a landlord and we are already regretting it. Why is that Landlords have no so little rights...?

    FYI, we have not signed anything with the family or Bad Robot. They have not returned all the keys, garage access and we still have the Move-in and Move-out as they had requested Garage access to store their uhaul pod. They have not officially informed us to turn the garrage access off or anything about the missing key.

    - Any suggestions welcome. If you are a licensed lawyer in and around Corona, CA (92881) and willing to represent us "aggressively", please contact me at jdrnb007-7 @ yahoo. We are so fkin tired that I do not mind lossing my own money to remind them that they are seriously at fault here.

    Second, if I continue to do this on our own, if the premise is in Riverside County, Bad Robot is from LA area and family is in Idhaho, will the responsible court for the hearing always be in Riverside county / Corona !?

     

     

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