Rental notes: What happens to the tenant when a landlord dies?

PUBLISHED 5 FEB 2019   

Lease agreements don’t generally terminate on the death of the landlord, so tenants are usually not required to pack up and leave, according to Cilliers  &Reynders attorneys.

The firm says the executor of the landlord’s estate will take over the administration of the estate and transfer the “residue” to the heirs after they have paid out the legatees. In this process, the rights and obligations in terms of the lease agreement will also pass to the heirs.

It is possible (although not usual) that the lease agreement will specifically provide that the lease terminates on the death of the landlord, but if that is the case, the tenant will at worst have to be allowed a reasonable period to vacate the premises.

At best, if the property has also passed to the heirs, they will be open to concluding a new lease with the tenant at this stage – especially if he or she has always paid the rent on time and looked after the property.

Most commonly, however, the heirs will simply “inherit” the lease as it is and become the legal successors to the deceased landlord, meaning that there will be no immediate change for the tenant.    
And even if the heirs decide to sell the property, the new owners will usually have to let the existing lease run its course before they can ask the tenant to leave.

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