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Can a landowner charge a dead person for renting property in the U.S.? Let's say my grandma died 4 months ago and the landowner only discovered that she was dead just now, can the landowner charge my grandma for 4 months of rental in the United States or is this illegal and can only force her to pay the rent of the month before she died?

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    Was the estate using the property? For example, were the items in residence still?
    – corsiKa
    Sep 19, 2021 at 16:55

2 Answers 2

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A person's contractual rights and obligations remain valid past their death, so if the landlord dies, their heirs cannot then kick out the tenant, and likewise if the tenant dies, their estate still is liable for unpaid past and future rent. That means for example that the person cannot be evicted, the landlord cannot take their property or enter without permission save for the standard emergency conditions. The tenant (or their estate) remains liable for rent until the lease terminates. If the lease has a clause to the effect that the lease terminate at the end of the month when notice of death is given, that defines when the tenancy ends and therefore when rent isn't due – relevant to a yearly lease, and the question of whether the estate would be on the hook for a full year of rent (it also depends on whether subletting is allowed).

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Yes. Your grandmother's estate is responsible for the rent.

In fact, your grandmother's estate is entitled to continue renting the apartment for a reasonable amount of time as is needed to wrap up the affairs of the estate.

Those affairs, at the very least, include gathering possessions and papers, arranging appropriate off site storage, and transporting those articles there. Or, promptly selling or disposing of articles, but it would be foolish to allow this to become a drawn-out affair, as storage units are cheaper than apartments.

So not only is it reasonable for the estate to rent the apartment for a short time, it is expected. The estate must hand over the apartment in the usual fashion - removed of all items and broom clean, per state law and/or a lawful rental agreement.

The estate is the "legal object"* formed when a person becomes deceased. It is the owner of all the deceased person's assets. It is obliged with wrapping up the person's affairs, settling the person's debts, and distributing the person's assets according to the will, living trust, or state law.


* well, not quite. There are subtle differences that are way too picayune for a general overview like this one. But it works the same way as a trust or corporation: the estate has its own assets and debts, and there are humans who manage the estate's affairs, but that doesn't make the assets (or debts) theirs.

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    That last paragraph is wrong. An estate is not a legal entity, it is merely the collection of assets and liabilities. The legal entity is the executor/administrator (terminology may vary but it's the person who is nominated in the will or by law to manage the estate) who holds the estate in trust for the creditors and beneficiaries of the deceased.
    – JBentley
    Sep 17, 2021 at 10:03
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    @JBentley: Estates can become copyright owners of licensed derives of a decedent's works, which are produced after a decedent's death. I wouldn't think a mere collection of assets and liabilities would be able to do that.
    – supercat
    Sep 17, 2021 at 11:14
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    @supercat Any inanimate legal entity must have one of more humans legally appointed to take actions on its behalf. In the case of an estate, the appointee(s) are the executor(s) of the estate. (Similarly in the case of a company, the appointees are the directors of the company, etc.)
    – alephzero
    Sep 17, 2021 at 12:43
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    I'll note that according to the IRS "An estate is a legal entity created as the result of a person’s death." (emphasis mine). So I think it's fine to use the phrase "legal entity" to describe an estate.
    – Brian
    Sep 17, 2021 at 14:30
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    @Pere precisely my point! The states which say an estate is not a legal entity, also grant it the same rights as a legal entity. "Tomayto, tomahto". Sep 18, 2021 at 17:49

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