30 Mar 2017

Til death do we part: what to do when a tenant dies

The unexpected death of a tenant is a sensitive situation that Rental Trends is prepared for.  It is important to understand the rules because the remaining tenants, or the deceased’s legal representative, will more than likely be looking to us for guidance during such a difficult time.

Tenancies involving more than one person:

When two or more people share a tenancy, and one party dies, the tenancy agreement does not automatically end. We speak to the remaining tenants and/or the deceased tenant’s representative, about updating the tenancy agreement. If there is a change of bond contributors, a change of shared bond arrangement (Form 6) will also need to be completed and lodged with the RTA.

Co-tenants cannot claim the deceased’s bond contribution; this is only available to the deceased tenant’s estate. Any tenancy related debts are a separate matter to be dealt with by the deceased tenant’s legal representative.   

Tenancies involving a sole tenant:

When a sole tenant dies, they are not breaking their lease. Instead, the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 takes a compassionate approach to the situation, and allows for the tenancy to end in the following ways:

1. The tenant’s representative can give our office written notice to end the tenancy two weeks from the service of the notice, or vice versa.

2. The tenant’s representative and our office can mutually agree to a different end date. When this occurs we document the arrangement in writing, including signatures from both parties, to show their agreement.

3. The tenant’s representative, or our office can apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to end the tenancy, and QCAT will set the end date.

4. The tenancy agreement expires automatically one month after the tenant’s death if neither party serves notice to end the tenancy, and nobody makes an application to QCAT.

If the next-of-kin cannot be located:

We are always proactive getting emergency contact details at the beginning of a tenancy. However, sometimes we have trouble locating the next of kin, and this is when we would call the police.    We can also apply to QCAT to end the tenancy, or to issue an Abandonment termination notice (Form 15). These options are only visited after all other avenues are exhausted.

Other reasons for ending a tenancy:

There are a myriad of reasons for tenancy agreement changes other than death (e.g. job changes, illness and relationship breakdown). Where some parties to a tenancy want to terminate their agreement because they would suffer excessive hardship from it continuing, they can lodge an urgent application to QCAT. It is up to the person lodging the application to prove the hardship, and the decision about whether the agreement will be terminated (with or without penalties) will be made by the QCAT adjudicator.


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