Death of tenant on Friday. Entry by apartment management on Monday "to inspect and inventory property." Manager claimes that since no power of attorney on file this is allowed. Manager claims that since senior living apartments (tax credit) Landlord Tenand Law does not apply. Tenant had local family that had given apartment manager contact information on day of death. No notice given to family member or "estate" to enter. Also this happened on the 3rd of the month and manager claims since rent not paid they take immediate possession. I believe the lease is tranfered to the estate and landlord must still give notice to enter...is this belief correct?
Family Law Attorney
It is true that in WA the decedent's estate would take over the rights and duties of the decedent in a lease. It is also true that, if the WA Residential Landlord-Tenant Act applies, the landlord must give appropriate notice before entering the tenant's space.
However, until the court appoints someone to take care of the decedent's estate, there likely is no one with legal authority to take care of the decedent's estate. A power of attorney would end at the decedent's death.
On a practical level, unless someone is living in the decedent's apartment, what difference would it make to anyone if the apartment manager enters to make sure things that should be turned off (such as stove, lights, gas) are off? Unless the manager is there to steal things or disturb things, there likely are more important issues to worry about than whether required notices are given. If the RLTA applies, the landlord would have to be given notice to not enter without giving the tenant proper notice before the landlord is penalized.
If the decedent was paying rent, the living situation likely is covered by the RLTA. The statutes are at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?Cite=59 .
RCW 59.18.040 (Living arrangements exempted from chapter) provides: "The following living arrangements are not intended to be governed by the provisions of this chapter, unless established primarily to avoid its application, in which event the provisions of this chapter shall control:
"(1) Residence at an institution, whether public or private, where residence is merely incidental to detention or the provision of medical, religious, educational, recreational, or similar services, including but not limited to correctional facilities, licensed nursing homes, monasteries and convents, and hospitals;..."
If the decedent was living in some sort of assisted living place, the RLTA may not have applied.
You can review the specific facts with your attorney to find out what legal options there may be.
Landlord / Tenant Lawyer
I am so sorry to hear of your recent loss. There is no basis for management to enter without 48 hours advance notice, and there is no right of the landlord to inventory the decedent tenant's property. Also, I disagree that a senior tax credit means the RLTA does not apply, unless this is some sort of institutional living arrangement.
Notice should have been given to surviving family at the very least. Also, payment of rent is irrelevant to the issue of possesion - think that one through. If another resident had simply failed to pay rent (but was otherwise there and fine) would management assume they could "take immediate possession"? I think not. There is no excuse for this sort of action.
If this has been really recent, there may not be an estate yet. There may not need to be, depending on whether the decedent owned real proprerty at the date of their death.
But this facility's management is running roughshod over the family. The bottom line is: Don't take legal advice from the landlord as they clearly do not have the tenant's estate's interests in mind. You may want to discuss this with a probate attorney.
Hope this helps. Elizabeth Powell
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