If you spend enough time as a landlord, chances are you might eventually deal with a tenant dying on one of your rental properties. When this happens, you may be wondering something like “do I have to disclose deaths on my property?” The short answer to this is: sometimes.
When Does a Landlord Need To Disclose a Death on a Property?
There is no national law that obligates landlords to disclose death on their properties to new clients. However, certain states do have local laws that require you to tell your tenants about a death on your property before they rent it.
If a tenant has passed away on one of your properties, it’s important that you know what the legal requirements are in your local area regarding disclosure before you have a new tenant sign a lease agreement.
Keep in mind that most local laws apply to all types of death on a property, regardless of whether they are a natural death, an accident, a murder, or a suicide.
How To Talk About the Matter with a New Tenant
When deciding how to disclose a death on a property to a new tenant, it’s important to consider that the foundations for every good tenant-landlord relationship are open communication and trust.
Even if you legally don’t have to disclose a death in a house or apartment you rent, it’s probably still best to tell your new tenants about the history of the property, especially if the death was recent. If you don’t, they could always find out later from another source and it could break their trust in you as a landlord.
The first thing you need to do before you disclose a death in a rental property to a new tenant is to think about the psychological effect it might have on the potential tenant.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death, hearing about too many details of it could really disturb your prospective tenants. So, while it’s important to communicate honestly, you don’t need to overwhelm new tenants with too many grisly details.
In fact, depending on local laws, you may not be obligated to share any of the details of a death at all unless a tenant specifically asks about it. If a prospective renter does ask you for details about a death, answer truthfully and don’t try to intentionally hide any of the details from them.
Essential details to share with your new tenants if they ask about them may include the manner of death (i.e., whether it was violent or not), when the death occurred, and where on the property it happened. You do not need to disclose any personal details of the deceased, such as their names, and you can just tell potential tenants that such information is private if they ask for it.
Laws About Disclosing Death in a Rental Property Differ From State to State
Here are some examples of specific laws regarding renting an apartment where someone died in different states:
California: In California, the Californian landlord-tenant law states that landlords must disclose the death of a tenant on their property if it occurred within the past 3 years. Landlords are also specifically NOT required to disclose the HIV status of any tenants that died on their properties.
Georgia: Georgia state landlord-tenant law stipulates that landlords must truthfully answer any questions about deaths on their properties to the best of their knowledge. This means they must tell tenants if their property was the site of a homicide, a suicide, or an accidental or natural death, but only if asked.
South Carolina: South Carolina is similar to Georgia in the fact that landlords are only obligated by law to tell the truth when asked whether or not someone has died on their properties.
Colorado: Colorado only requires landlords to tell tenants if someone died if there is an issue with the rental unit that caused the death AND it could still pose a risk to the new tenants.
The Bottom Line
While only a few states have laws that say a landlord has to tell new tenants if someone died on their property, you should consider the ethical reasons for disclosing death in a house or apartment to prospective tenants.
Remember that honesty and communication are the most important parts of a functional landlord-tenant relationship, and failing to disclose a recent death on your property could damage the relationship if your tenants find out later on.
If you do live in a state with laws that govern disclosing death in rental properties, make sure you fully understand and comply with them before signing a new lease for any property where someone passed away.