One of the services our trauma and biohazard remediation company offers is help in the event of an unattended death. This type of decease is often encountered by landlords. If you’re a property owner, just exactly what do you do when one of your tenants has passed away without anyone there? As a landlord you have certain rights and responsibilities, and it’s important to know what they are to avoid possible legal problems.
PLEASE BE ADVISED we are not attorneys and cannot give you legal advice. This article is not intended to provide specific legal counsel but simply lays out what you may expect. A wise landlord already has a relationship with a lawyer, and hopefully your attorney has given you some basic information.
Perhaps death was anticipated but the person was alone when they passed. A death like that is most likely quickly noticed. On the other hand, it may be the person lived alone and had very little contact with others. In a case like that, it may be days before anyone discovers the deceased.
The term ‘unattended death’ simply means no one was present with the person died. But there are things that landlords should be aware of. If you own a property in our service area here in Washington State and some of the surrounding Pacific Northwest communities, something you might want to consider is calling a biohazard and trauma recovering company such as ours. We deal with situations like this and we can help you through the process.
Step 1: Contact authorities. The simplest way to do so is to call 911 and then wait for first responders/police/etc. to arrive. You don’t want to take any other action until you’re notified by them that you an proceed. You must have written notice of death before taking any further action. (In some states you can lock the property without having the written notice; this varies from state to state.)
Step 2: Make sure the rental property is secured. Our suggestion is to change the locks, since you have no idea who else might have a key. Make sure windows as locked as well.
Step 3: Hopefully the person has provided you with emergency contact information. Once you have the official written death notice, you’ll need to notify closest family members, or if the deceased had a will, whoever is handling the estate. At that point, the next of kin or representative of the estate (if there is a will) should work in conjunction with you as the property owner. Personal belongings will need to be removed, and in all likelihood biohazard cleaning needs to take place, depending on the stage of the decomposition of the body. It’s especially important if there is blood involved. But upon death other bodily fluids are also released and can pose a safety and health hazard if not handled properly.
In an upcoming post we’ll share more about just what services our company (and others in our industry) offer, and what’s involved. But for now, just know the basics of the initial steps as well as what your rights as a property owner as well as your responsibilities as a landlord are.