Landlords deal with a lot of challenging issues, but one of the saddest situations is a death on the premises. This is obviously a tragedy on an emotional level. In addition, from an operational standpoint, there are complex regulatory procedures and disclosures you will have to address. One question many landlords have asked over the years: are you required to disclose to future tenants that someone previously died in a particular property?
According to California Civil Code 1710.2, a death in your rental property is classified as a “material fact.” That means it is a detail that would impact a prospective tenant’s willingness to rent the property, or influence how much that applicant would be willing to pay for the property.
You, as the landlord or property manager, are obligated to disclose if someone passed away within the premises of your rental property. Usually, the deceased in question is your tenant. However, it could be anyone; you’re required to disclose even if the person who passed away was a co-occupant, a guest, a vendor or someone who wasn’t invited – for example, an intruder.
The law is specific that you disclose deaths which occurred within your specific residence. In other words, if you own a condominium unit, and someone passed away in the pool house, that’s not a mandatory disclosure it because it didn’t happen inside your residence. Likewise, if you have a duplex and someone died next door, that’s not within the specific rented premises. “The premises” is defined as the residence itself: the living unit enclosed by its four walls.
CCC 1710.2 requires that you provide this disclosure for the at least three years following the demise. You should include the information in your marketing material and during your application process, but you don’t initially have to go into tremendous detail. For example, you can say in your advertising that “specific information applies regarding the property’s history; applicants should ask for details.” Once you have an acceptable applicant, you should make sure that they understand there was previously a death on the property. You should also provide a clearly-written disclosure in the rental contract. It is important that you have documentation that the tenant has been made aware of the necessary information per CCC 1710.2.
If an applicant or tenant asks about the specific circumstances of the death, you are obligated to be thorough and accurate. You have to tell them the general circumstances of the death, for example that it was a heart attack, a suicide or some violent act, as the individual situation warrants. Bear in mind that people will talk. Your new tenants would likely get details from the neighbors anyway. You must be clear and thorough in your response because, if you do not disclose, the tenant or applicant could be entitled to “damages.” Damages could include the difference between what they are presently paying for rent, compared to what the rent SHOULD be given the circumstances that the property could be considered “tainted.” Calculating that difference in value is complex, and it could be get expensive if experts, witnesses and litigation result. You certainly want to avoid that, so DISCLOSE.
There is a special, somewhat unique provision in the civil code. If the deceased passed away as a result of an AIDS-related condition, you CANNOT disclose that particular information. You still have to disclose that someone passed away within the past three years, but you cannot say the cause was AIDS-related.
The death of someone in your property has serious implications; it can be complicated and challenging. Contact a professional property manager for assistance. If you have any questions about this issue or any other topic, please contact us at DeDe’s Rentals. We’d be glad to help.