Who Is Responsible for Cleaning Out the Apartment After Death?

When someone passes away in an apartment, one person is responsible for cleaning the property. This is the individual who is on the lease of the apartment.

If the person on the lease is the one who died, then the responsibility is handed to the deceased’s estate. If that is not enough to cover the damages, then the property manager has to clean up. 

Cleaning Out the Apartment After a Tenant’s Death

Unfortunately, it is quite common for residents of an apartment to pass away. If they live alone and pass away at the property, it could be days until their body is discovered.

This is often called an ‘unattended death’ wherein the person dies of one cause. It could be days or months until their remains are discovered. 

In such a case, bodily fluids, remains, and other factors may build up and damage the property. Cleaning this up at the earliest is vital because it becomes a biohazard.

When the apartment is not cleaned in due time, landlords may incur considerable expenses. The next of kin and family of the tenant is not necessarily responsible for cleaning out the apartment.

This is particularly true if they don’t have their names on the lease since they are not legally obligated. Hence, the responsibility will automatically go into the hands of the property owner.

However, if a person were living with the deceased, they would be responsible for the cleanup. Hence, it all depends on different factors and may vary depending on specific cases.

Why It Is Important to Carry Out Cleanup After a Death

That said, property managers have multiple steps to take and factors to consider. Above all, they should carry out the cleaning process at their earliest for several reasons.

When death at an apartment is not handled properly, the costs and damages can add up considerably. This is especially true when the person who has died signed the lease and their lease was active.

As a landlord, you may have to incur tons of costs. Similarly, the costs and damages also add up if the body has been lying in the apartment for days. 

Not only that, it could then become a breeding ground for bacteria and germs. Hence, navigating such decisions and carrying out these tasks can be slightly complicated.

Property managers need to take a number of steps to ensure the clean-out process is carried out efficiently. This guide will highlight all of them.

Steps to Take When Carrying Out a Deceased Tenant’s Apartment Cleanup 

The responsibility of cleaning up the apartment can lie in the hands of several people. This is entirely dependent on a particular case and lease.

If there are other people on the lease, the responsibility of cleaning up the apartment will be to them. However, if not, then it will be with the roommates.

Otherwise, the property manager has to do it when there is no one else to clean out the apartment. Here is a step-by-step run-through of what you should do to ensure the cleanup of the apartment:

Notify Relevant Authorities and Family of the Deceased

The first thing you should do when there is a death in the apartment is to notify relevant individuals. This includes the local state department and the deceased’s next of kin.

If you discover the deceased’s body in the apartment, you should call the police at the earliest. They will then handle contacting the next of kin. 

Once the death has been established and a certificate is generated, you can proceed with other matters. For example, getting the apartment cleaned out and ready for the next tenant. 

Secure the Property

When a death has been discovered in the apartment, it is imperative that you seal and secure it. This would prevent any attempts of theft if the deceased lived alone in the apartment.

Similarly, if the deceased used to live alone, you can also consider changing the locks. The relevant individuals should clean the apartment at the right time.

Securing the apartment will ensure that such proper measures are taken. This way, no one will access or enter the apartment to tamper with the deceased’s possessions. 

Work With An Executor

If you leased the apartment to the deceased individual, you must follow this step. After the death of the individual, the apartment is not leased back to the landlord.

The death of the tenant does not mean that the lease has been terminated. Hence, the landlord needs to ensure the proper transfer of the apartment through an executor.

The landlord can also contact the housing authority if they are unsure about who the tenant’s executor is. They can also contact them if they don’t know who to contact in case of the tenant’s death.

Find and Secure Important Documents

Whether you are the next of kin of the deceased or the landlord, this is a crucial step to follow. This is one of the first steps before commencing the proper cleaning procedure.

Locating and securing any of the important documents of the deceased is quite important. Such documents can include legal documents, including the deceased’s will and property papers.

They can also include any of their personal documents, such as their letters, certificates, etc.

Forward the Deceased’s Mails

This is a common step that people miss when cleaning out an apartment after death. You should thus forward their mail to the relevant individuals.

These would include the deceased’s family members and executor. Regardless of the kind of mail and its quantity, it should all be forwarded to them.

Sort and Dispose of the Deceased’s Belongings

Once the important documents and mail are out of the way, it’s time to sort out the disposal of belongings. This should only be carried out once the lease has been terminated. 

The landlord or the relevant next of kin of the deceased should carry out this disposal step. Cleaning an apartment entails sorting and disposing of the deceased’s belongings.

Cleaning out by a landlord should be done when the executor has notified them to do so. If the family or next of kin are carrying out the disposal, they should be given some time.

They should be able to clear all of the belongings in a couple of weeks or a month. Sorting and disposing of their belongings should be done with compassion and care.

The best way to do it is by sorting the items into four categories. These include things to throw away, things to donate, things to keep, and things to be sold.

Arrange Proper Cleanup of the Apartment

Once all the items have been disposed of, a landlord should get the apartment properly cleaned. They should do this before putting the apartment up for rent or sale.

This should especially be done if the deceased’s body and remains were in the apartment for a while. In such a case, the remains could have made the apartment a biohazard.

This is because the fluids seep into the ground and structure over time. Hence, to properly decontaminate it, you might need to remove the carpeting and flooring.

A professional cleaning service specializing in death cleanup is recommended to clear out the apartment. They would remove any risk of bacteria and germs in the apartment.

Once the apartment has been cleaned out and sanitized, you can open the apartment up for visitors. This is also the right time to put it up for rent. 

What Happens to the Deceased’s Security Deposit?

This is a popular question after there has been a death in an apartment. The landlord is free to use the security deposit however they please. 

They can use it to pay for the damages to the apartment from the death, for the cleanup, or for unpaid rent. The unused part of the security deposit can then be given to the deceased’s executor.

The landlord can contact the deceased’s family if the security deposit is insufficient to cover the aforementioned costs. They can ask for compensation from the deceased’s next of kin or family. 

Remember to be respectful and compassionate to the family, as they may still be grieving. 

Final Words

Having a death in the apartment can be a challenging and traumatizing experience. As a landlord or family member of the deceased, it is important to follow the right steps.

Cleaning out the apartment, especially after there has been a death, can be a considerable feat. The relevant authorities and family members should be contacted as soon as possible.

Once all the legalities have been taken care of, the cleanup process can begin. First of all, the important documents should all be sorted and put away.

Then, the rest of the belongings should be sorted into various categories and removed from the apartment. When the entire apartment is empty, the cleanup process begins.

Depending on the state of the apartment, a landlord can clean it themselves or hire a professional cleaning service. It is important to properly clean out and sanitize the area.

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