If a renter of an apartment dies and owes back rent how does the Owner go about to collect it?
2 Answers from Attorneys
He can attempt to collect from the administrator or executor of the estate. If he doesn't get a good response, he can get a lawyer and sue the estate.
What Attorney Ashman says is correct. The landlord would first have to see if an estate is filed (check with the county probate court where the renter lived at the time of his death if its been over 30 days since the renter passwed away) and file a claim against the estate. Its up to the personal representative to pay the claim or not. It will depend on what probate assets are in the estate. If the renter had very little in assets or claims of a higher priority that exhaust estate assets (the landlord can review any inventory that has been filed to get an idea), then suing is going to be a big fat waste of time because there is nothing to recover from.
More likely is that the renter died and nobody has sought to probate an estate. This will be more problematic. In such case, what happened to the renter's stuff? Did a family person collect it? What else did the renter own? A car? Does the landlord know the name of any relatives? If the landlord has an idea of who the next of kin is, the landlord can try contacting the relative and inquiring as to whether an estate has been probated and can ask for payment of the claim. The relative should tell the landlord what the situation is. Again, if there is no assets, then that is the end of it unless a living relative signed the lease and agreed to be personally liable.
If you are not sure, then you might want to consult with a collections attorney. Depending on what you want to spend, they can do an asset search and see if the deceased renter did have some assets. In an extreme case, the landlord can seek to probate the estate if no one else does. I would only recommend that if there are substantial assets to pay the landlord and any other creditors.
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