How death and divorce affect your lease

By Newsletter

Relationships are difficult enough. Things get even more complicated when relationships between two tenants break down, leading to separation which has implications for the legal rental agreement they have with their landlord. Likewise, the same issues arise when one of the tenants passes away, leaving a partner or housemate to honour the lease alone.

Either due to a death or when a couple splits up, an option is for the remaining tenant to take over the whole lease. This is only feasible if the remaining tenant is able to afford the whole rental on their own. If not the lease would need to be cancelled and, depending on the clauses in the lease, may be subject to penalties.

An alternative solution that some tenants may choose could be to allow a new tenant to take over the rental of the exiting person. When this is the decision, the managing agent will need to credit check and vet the prospective new tenant and the Landlord would have to agree to this new arrangement before anything proceeded.death-1880193_1920

When neither party, in the case of separation, is willing to take over the existing lease this can cause headaches for landlords and managing agents, making an already difficult situation that much worse.

If a couple signs the lease jointly (both names are on the lease) then they are both, jointly and severally liable for the rent. This means that if one of them defaults on the rental payment the other will be held accountable, regardless of their personal circumstances.

In the case of the death of a tenant, if there is more than one tenant in residence then the remaining tenant is liable for the rent. In the case of a single tenant, the deceased tenant’s estate will be liable for the rent on that property for the currency of the lease. It also has the same rights to give notice of the cancellation of the lease – usually 20 business days’ notice, subject to any penalties. During this time the landlord is not permitted to have the tenant’s belongings removed – this may only be done after the lease has been officially cancelled.

If the landlord of a tenanted property dies, the tenant must be informed as soon as possible, as well as the managing agency if there is one. This would usually be done by the executor of the landlord’s will, who will also be able to advise the tenant where the rent should now be paid, as the property would still form part of the deceased’s estate and rent would still be due for the duration the tenant stays in the property.

Regardless of which party dies during the currency of the lease, either the landlord’s or tenant’s estate has to honour the contract.

IGrow Rentals is dedicated to both its tenants and landlords. To discuss the management of your rental property, please contact Karen Grobler from IGrow Rentals on 021 979 2501 or karen@sair.co.za.