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4.10 Death of a Tenant

If an assured shorthold tenant dies, the tenancy does not automatically come to an end and a landlord cannot simply take back the property. What happens depends on a number of factors.

Joint Tenants

Where there are joint tenants and death occurs during the fixed term or during any periodic tenancy, the remaining tenants continue with the tenancy.

Sole Tenant (No Other Occupiers)

Where a sole tenant dies and there are no other occupiers, the tenancy whether in fixed term or periodic, vests in the personal representatives and they are liable for the rent from the deceased person's estate.

If there is no will or, there is a will but no executor, the tenancy will vest with the Public Trustee and the landlord must:

  • send a notice to quit to the tenant's last known address
  • send a copy of the notice and a completed form NL1 to the Public Trustee
  • register the notice with the Public Trustee.

More details and the form are available from the .gov website here:

Sole Tenant (Other Occupiers)

Where a sole tenant dies during a periodic tenancy and immediately before the death, the tenant's spouse was occupying as their main home, and the tenant was not himself a successor, the tenancy will vest in the spouse and will not devolve under the tenant's will or intestacy.

Where the tenancy is fixed term or periodic and the tenancy has devolved under the will or intestacy, the landlord can serve a section 8 notice using ground 7 within 12 months after the death. For the purposes of ground 7, the acceptance of rent by the landlord from a new tenant shall not be regarded as creating a new tenancy unless there is a written agreement to change:

  • the amount of the rent
  • the period
  • the length of term
  • the premises which are let, or
  • any other term of the tenancy.

This is only a brief summary and if possession is required after the death of a tenant, legal advice should be sought first as it can be complex depending on the specific circumstances of the tenancy and other occupiers who may be present.