Cleaning out an Apartment After a Family Member, Friend or Tenant Dies

Cleaning out an apartment after a family member or friend dies can prove to be a challenging and emotional task. With that said, there are some important tactics you can employ, and steps you need to take, to ensure that the apartment clean out process goes as smoothly as possible.

Plan Ahead

When a person initially moves into a rented apartment, he or she must be proactive. One of the most important steps that need to be taken as part of planning ahead is to provide the landlord with the name and contact information for a person’s emergency contact. This information becomes vital if a tenant dies.

Of course, when a person dies in a rented apartment, the family needs to be notified. Having current contact information in the hands of a landlord aids in ensuring that this occurs. Making sure that this type of comprehensive contact information is kept up to date with a landlord helps not only the landlord but also family members or friends of a tenant who may bear responsibility for cleaning out an apartment.

Emergency contact information serves another crucial purpose. It provides the landlord with specific information about the person who has the tenant’s authority to enter the apartment should the renter pass away. It designates who has the authority to clean out an apartment when a tenant dies.

Change the Locks

Directly after a person’s death, and before actual apartment clean our commences, the premises must be secured. The primary way in which this is accomplished is by changing the locks to the apartment. If a relative of the deceased person oversees the change of locks, he or she needs to make certain that the landlord is advised of the action and provide the landlord with a set of keys.

Tend to Legalities First

Another matter of proactivity to bear in mind involves tending to legalities first after a tenant dies. A family member or other person with a connection to the deceased tenant must make sure that California probate law is complied with when it comes to apartment clean out. A landlord must comply with California law as well, as is discussed shortly.

If a last will and testament exist, that document governs the manner in which personal property is dealt with during the cleaning out of a deceased person’s apartment. If no will exists, the California probate code (noted a moment ago) delineates the manner in which the tenant’s personal property must be addressed during and after an apartment clean out.

Locate and Secure Important Documents

Before an apartment clean out commences in earnest, locating and securing important documents of all types is a must. These documents include everything from legal instruments (like a last will and testament) as well as personal items (like letters and similar items).

Forward Mail

One of the most commonly overlooked steps to take when a person dies is to forward mail to a responsible party. Oftentimes, this will be the executor or administrator of the deceased individual’s estate.

Bear in mind that merely because so many communications are handled digitally in this day and age, including billing and bill payment, doesn’t mean that important things are transmitted via traditional U.S. Mail. (This is likely to include sympathy cards, which family members will like to receive.)

Sort, Inventory, Classify and Dispose of Personal Belongings

Apartment cleanout after a tenant dies necessitates dealing with the renter’s personal belongings. Dealing with a tenant’s personal property typically is a four-part process:

  • Sort
  • Inventory
  • Classify
  • Dispose

Keep in mind that the probate court may require an official inventory of the property that is filed with the court itself. Otherwise, an inventory is necessary to keep track and account for a tenant’s personal property.

A tenant’s property can be classified into four categories as part of an apartment clean out:

  • Property to be kept
  • Property to be sold
  • Property to be donated
  • Property to be thrown out

The Aftermath of an Unattended Death

One challenging apartment clean out situation is when a tenant dies what is known as an unattended death. In basic terms, an unattended death occurs when a person dies for some reason alone. Moreover, following the death of this nature, the remains of the deceased individual are not discovered for what can prove to be an extended period of time. Indeed, there are examples of California unattended deaths in which bodies are not found for weeks or even months.

An unattended death adds a significant array of challenges to apartment clean out. Indeed, the advised course is for a family member of the deceased or a landlord to obtain the services of a skilled, experienced California apartment clean out specialist. This needs to a professional with specific experience in what is known as biohazard remediation.

A Landlord and a Tenant With No Relatives

If a landlord finds his or her self in a position of having a tenant die with no relatives, and no other identified emergency contact, California law has specific procedures for disposing of a tenant’s property.  Even if a tenant has not immediate relatives and no contact person, an estate may be established for the deceased person. When that occurs, the court will designate an executor (if the tenant had a will) or a personal representative (if there was no will).

Once this individual is appointed, a landlord can provide that individual a key to the rental premises so that the representative of the estate can take possession of the deceased tenant’s possessions. Keep in mind that the estate will bear responsibility for making rent payments associated with the property.

Hire an Apartment Clean Out Professional

Because of the complexities associated with addressing a person’s residence after death, a wise course can be to hire an apartment clean out professional. An apartment clean out specialist can oversee and undertake all aspects associated with getting a deceased person’s residence in order, appropriately deal with personal property, and ensure that the premises are thoroughly, comprehensively cleaned and sanitized.