The day after a tenant died the landlord entered the apartment before any family were allowed in. They went through the deceased property and removed personal items as well as the deposit after the deceased payed 10 years in rent that totaled 70,000. The landlord never kept up with the place but now states they are keeping the deposit for repairs. Is this legal? Does the family have any rights to retrieve anything?
The landlord is obligated to place any unclaimed property into storage after the property is vacated. He is not allowed to remove any items to keep for himself. He is obligated to provide notice to the tenant, in this case the estate, of the items left on the premises. It is possible that the estate has a claim of conversion, in that the landlord converted the personal items. The estate may be able to get the items or the value of the items if successful on this claim.
Regarding the security deposit, he would only be able to withhold the security deposit if has provided notice and letters to the estate as required by law. There should be an itemization of what needed repaired and how this was deducted from the deposit.
Because this is a complicated issue, involving not only landlord-tenant law but also administration of an estate, I would recommend that you hire an attorney to look more closely into this matter.
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