Contrary to what many people might think, a tenancy does not end when the tenants die.
A tenancy is a form of legal ownership of land. In the same way that your house does not revert to the monarch when you die, your tenancy also does not revert back to your landlord. What happens to it will depend on the type of tenancy it is and whether the fixed term has ended or not.
What happens to it will depend on the type of tenancy it is and whether the fixed term has ended or not.
Note by the way that where the tenancy is owned by two joint tenants, the death of one will just mean that it is owned solely by the other (ie they will take over the deceased tenant’s share). Otherwise the rules are as follows:
During the fixed term
This is during the tenants ‘ownership’ of the tenancy and so the tenancy will fall to be dealt with by the executors of the tenants estate in the same way as all his other possessions.
During this time, the tenants estate will still be liable for the rent. If the tenant dies without any money (and there is no spouse or family member willing to take responsibility), effectively the best solution will be for the landlord just to take the property back – but note that he does not have any right to do this – it must be in agreement with the tenants executors / personal representatives.
During a periodic tenancy
Under the common law the same rules apply. However both the Rent Act 1977 and the Housing Act 1988 set up specific rules as to what should happen to the tenancy after the death of the tenant.
Under both systems, the tenants spouse (which includes a same-sex partner) is entitled to take over the tenancy. This is valuable for spouses of assured and protected tenancies but landlords of AST’s can always serve a section 21 notice and end the tenancy that way if they wish. Note that landlords of assured tenants can also gain possession under ground 7.
Under the Rent Act, a family member of the protected tenant may under some circumstances be entitled to inherit the tenancy (albeit as an assured tenancy).