What Happens When A Tenant Dies In Your Unit?

I rented one of my units to an elderly gentleman named Dick. (Or who I though was a gentleman) About 13 years ago I had a vacancy and this man named Dick answered one of my ads for rent. I actually advertised in the local newspaper, which I don’t recommend. This was before smart phones were used by everyone. He came over to look at the place wearing a suit. He told me he was looking for a place he could live in forever and didn’t plan on moving. I thought this would be a great tenant. He was proper and he wanted to stay forever. I knew I would always have my rent on time. He had social security and a pension from the city of Detroit. So, I rented to him I was excited to have him in, I had great expectations.

A couple years go by and I have been receiving my rent on time and everything was perfect. Then I had the city call me and they told me they had to do their bi-yearly inspection. The inspection is basically just a shakedown to get $100 from every rented unit in the city and force you to do unnecessary repairs or they fine you.

I don’t have a choice, I meet the city inspector over there and go in the unit.
The unit was a mess. It turns out this guy is a neurotic hoarder! There are newspapers all over and he apparently had a compulsion with bars of soap and tin foil. There were layers of tinfoil with bars of soap on them scattered all over the house. His bed had layers of newspaper on it instead of blankets. The place was a mess and there was old food left all over the place. I knew my dream tenant was turning into a nightmare. I asked him why the hell is there bars of soap all over the place? He laughed and said it wasn’t my business. Well now he’s being a real pain in the ass. The city made me do minor updates to the place, but what a mess. It passed inspection and he was paying me on time every month. What could I do? I remembered him saying he wanted to stay in that house forever, and I knew I would walk in on him dead one day.  A couple of years go by and I increase the rent slightly, he keeps paying me on time every month. He was still under paying and the neighborhood was increasing in value, new stores and bars moving in, and a lot of college kids. I knew I could get a couple hundred more out of this house but I didn’t want to ruin a good thing. I also just had to replace the furnace in the house. Which isn’t cheap.

So I knew I’d eventually have to clean the place up one day, every time I go over there I see more newspapers and bars of soap laying all over.
In his 8th year of renting from me I get a Facebook message from a friend who lives on the same street and she tells me that there’s been a light on in the house for 3 days and hasn’t been turned off at night. Then I knew, I was in for some shit.  She then tells me the cops were over there looking in the windows.
I immediately go to the police station and ask what the hells going on. They said they were doing a welfare check because one of the other neighbors called them. I told him that Dicks really old and he’s probably dead. I asked them to come with me to the house. Which was smart on my part because what if he was murdered, what if there was a break in, or he killed himself.  The cops come over, we unlock the door and one of the officers walks in and immediately says… “Well, there’s Dick”.  I knew it, Dicks dead.

Now I have a dead body to deal with and garbage all over the damn house. The officer walks through the house to make sure there’s nothing suspicious going on and I was just standing there like what the hell do I do now. The officer says he needs to call a coroner to take the body out. I say ok what do we do until then? He says wait and look for a trust or some kind of document with contact numbers on it. So we start sifting through all the garbage in the house the whole time there’s a dead body here and it’s starting to smell. I would describe the smell as someone who hasn’t took a shower in months, plus you can just tell that what you’re smelling is a rotting body. It was awful so over an hour goes by and the coroners finally come over and haul the body out. We don’t find a will or trust or any contact numbers and he never mentioned any family to me. I asked the cop after the body was taken out, OK what do I do with all this shit? He said it’s all your responsibility now. What?! He dies and leaves me with this mess! I’m furious, I look through the house for a couple hours. I find an extension cord, a silver dollar, and a mag light. That’s it, there is nothing of value here! I lock up and go home, just thinking what the hell am I going to do?

I decide, to hell with it. The next day I contact a junk hauling company and had them come over and throw his entire house out. I told them anything that isn’t attached get it the hell out of here. Fridge, stove and all.
I cleaned the entire place, bought new appliances, painted, had a new kitchen floor put in, sanded all the other floors, installed new fixtures, and faucets, and new windows in the bedroom. A month later I was able to rent it out for $250 a month more than what Dick was paying.

This was a nightmare I should have been more strict with Dead Dick and made him clean that junky house and give me emergency numbers. This was all before I used a management company. Now, they deal with all of that. He was a great tenant and I didn’t want to disrupt the perfect timing of the rent. He paid down a lot of my mortgage for me over the years, but looking back there were a few things I would have changed.

This is just another experience you have to go through being a landlord. Everyone has to PAY THEIR DUES if you want to make it in this business.

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