Q: I have lived by myself in an apartment for the last 12 years. I am planning to get married in the fall and I am in the middle of a 12-month lease where I am the only authorized tenant. The lease is actually quite favorable, as I renewed it last December when the landlord was offering a great incentive for lease renewals.
My concern is that if my wife moves in with me, the landlord might consider me to be in violation of my lease and could renegotiate to the much higher rental rate that new incoming tenants are now paying for a comparable apartment. What can I do to maintain my current favorable lease terms if my wife moves in with me?
A: I could see some landlords taking the position that bringing in a new adult tenant who is not authorized in the lease could be grounds for a claim that you have violated the lease. However, a prudent landlord will look at this as a positive move in these tough economic times, as there will be two potential income earners that can help cover the rent.
Of course, communication here is essential and you should immediately contact your landlord and be upfront with him about your plans. Tell him that you would like to add your future wife to the lease and will have her complete a rental application as soon as possible. You might even see if he is willing to extend the current lease or sign a new lease at comparable terms for another 12 months.
Good tenants are always a valuable commodity, and savvy landlords now more than ever should be willing to work with their long-term, problem-free tenants. You are an asset to the building and it is unlikely that your landlord will seek to leverage the change in your family status to break your lease. If you still believe that your landlord will have reservations, then you might want to consider preparing a narrative or almost a brief resume of the qualifications of your wife as a prospective tenant. In other words, if she has a good tenant history then you could provide references or maybe she can get a reference letter from her current landlord.
Q: My grandmother lived independently in an apartment for the past 30 years. Last week she passed away after a short illness. I am the executor of her estate and was wondering how long I have to remove all of her personal belongings from the rental unit. She has paid rent for the full month, but I don’t think there is any way I can sort through a lifetime of her possessions in less than 60 days. …CONTINUED
Will I have to pay rent for the remaining six months of the lease, or does her death terminate the lease obligations?
A: The loss of a relative is never easy and does raise some questions. Rent will still be owed for the entire time that the rental unit is under your control or possession regardless of the fact that your grandmother passed away. So if you go beyond the end of the month, you would be expected to pay the rent unless you can reach another mutually acceptable agreement with the landlord. Some landlords may be willing to work with you, but they are not required to unilaterally forego rent.
The good news is that the remaining term of six months under the lease would be terminated based on the death of your grandmother. I have heard that in circumstances where a tenant dies and he or she was on a month-to-month rental agreement, some landlords will require a 30-day notice, but most landlords will work with you. Many landlords are actually quite understanding when a tenant dies and will be extremely accommodating and cooperative. However, you should be prepared to provide the landlord with copies of the supporting documents, such as a death certificate, once it is issued. You should be sure to include documents that verify that you are the executor of the estate and have the right to enter the rental unit.
One of the serious challenges for landlords when a tenant passes away is that unauthorized family members or friends will show up and insist on the right to enter the rental unit. It is prudent for the landlord or property manager upon learning a tenant’s death to secure the premises and deny entry to all who cannot show they have a legal right to enter the unit. Persons on the lease and/or law enforcement or appropriate officials would typically have the right to enter, but allowing family or friends access could open up the landlord to claims that items of economic or sentimental value have disappeared.
This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of "Property Management for Dummies" and "Property Management Kit for Dummies" and co-author of "Real Estate Investing for Dummies."
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