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What happens to a signed lease agreement if the landlord dies?

San Francisco, CA |

My aunt who is elderly ( in her 90s and has ill health ) has signed a lease agreement for a year . The family wants to know what will happen if she dies before the end of the lease ; can the renter still stay ?

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Attorney answers 3


Assuming your grandmother is the lessor, and it is a fixed-term lease, then the lease remains good through the end of the lease term.

If grandma is tenant, California law says that a month-to-month lease is automatically terminated when the landlord receives notice that the tenant has died, whereby the tenant’s beneficiaries have no rights to the lease but may occupy the dwelling until 30 days have passed since the last rent payment was tendered. Miller & Desatnik Mgmt. Co. v Bullock (1990) 221 CA3d Supp 13.

Conversely, in a fixed-term lease, California law says such a lease does not terminate due to the death of either the tenant or the landlord. Joost v Castel (1939) 33 CA2d 138; City of Los Angeles v Greines (1930) 107 CA 481.


Ms. Farley is correct if grandma is the sole owner of the property. If she owns the property in joint tenancy, then her death would extinguish her interest in the property, including any leases she made.


I agree with counsel above. Death of a landlord is not a get out of lease free card. Instead, the lease remains valid . If you found this helpful and/or the best answer, please let the attorney know and check the boxes below indicating so. Thank you and best of luck.
Martha Bronson, Esq.
Phone: 209-830-0400

Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, as each situation is fact specific, and it is not possible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and court pleadings filed in the case. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.