No, your lease does not automatically terminate with the death of the landlord. The tenancy will continue until the end of the lease term. So, as long as you continue paying rent, you have a right to occupy the property according to the original terms. Even if a relative inherits the building and decides to sell it to someone else, they can't force you to leave until the term is up. However, the new owner may decide not to offer a lease extension at the end of the term, depending on what they plan to do with the property.
It gets a little more complicated if you only have a handshake agreement with the landlord and no actual lease. Without a lease, you have no legal right to live in the property, so the new owner does not have to honor any verbal agreement you had with the previous landlord. If you have a history of paying rent on time, you will be considered a month-to-month tenant, which means they can ask you to leave with the proper notice. Or, if they want to continue receiving rental income, they may offer you a new lease to sign.
The probate process can take several weeks or months to sort out, depending on the complexity of the landlord's estate. However, you will still be expected to pay rent on time to continue living in the unit. The best thing to do is to track down the representative of the estate and alert them to the situation. They should open an official bank account for the estate, where you can pay your rent until a new owner takes over.
But make sure you locate the actual representative of the estate and ask to see a Letter of Administration. You may have random family members showing up at your doorstep telling you they are the new owner. But until you see official documentation, it's best not to give anyone your money. You don't know the family dynamic and who will rightfully inherit the property once the dust settles. So, you don't want to make the check-out to one family member only to realize they have no claim to the property.
In some cases, you may be able to end your lease early if your landlord dies and you no longer wish to stay in the residence. However, you will have to reach out to the landlord's successors or the estate representative to reach an agreement. They may not want to deal with the hassles of collecting rent and responding to maintenance requests. So, they may be open to letting you break the lease early without any significant penalty. But make sure to contact them first because the landlord's death does not automatically grant you the right to terminate the lease.
If your landlord dies while you still have a lease, don't panic. In most scenarios, the only thing that will change is who you make the check-out to and who you contact for maintenance requests. No matter who inherits the property, they must still honor the conditions of the lease until the end of the term.
What Happens if My Landlord Dies and Has No Family?
If the landlord dies and has no heirs, the probate court will decide who will inherit the property. They may try to track down a distant relative, although if the landlord truly has no family, then the property will go to the state. But regardless, you will still be able to live in the property until the end of your lease term.
Can You Be Evicted if the Owner Dies?
No, you can't be evicted just because the original landlord died and the ownership is transferred. However, you are still expected to pay rent on time and abide by the other conditions of the lease, or you could still face eviction.