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What Happens to Your Lease if Your Roommate Dies

If your roommate passes away, what happens to the lease? In this guide, we explain what happens to a lease when someone dies and how it affects estate planning.

It is common for young adults as well as seniors to consider leasing a home. Renting a home may be less expensive and more suitable for your budget, lifestyle, or because you prefer to not live alone. For senior citizens who no longer want the responsibilities that come with maintaining a home and are looking to downsize or relocate, leasing may be a more desirable option for them. 

If you are in a relationship with someone and you live together, you may have co-signed a lease for an apartment or house, making them your roommate. Whether you are a couple or friends who have decided to lease a home together, signing a lease has legal ramifications you should be aware of. 

If you are looking ahead and plan to create an Estate Plan, knowing the terms listed on your lease agreement is important. You may be wondering how co-signing a lease would impact your Estate Plan in the event that you pass away. As a roommate, you will want to know what will happen to your joint lease if your roommate unexpectedly dies. You may have questions such as whether your lease will still be valid, who will be held responsible for paying your roommate’s share of the rent, and who will clear out your roommate’s things. Here at Trust & Will, we want to help clear up these questions and provide you with the answers you are looking for. That is why in this article we will go over everything you need to know in the unfortunate circumstances that you or your roommate passes away.

Who Will Be Responsible for Your Roommate’s Share of the Rent if They Die?

When you co-sign a lease with a roommate, the landlord does not make any distinctions between who should be paying what amount in the lease. Each person who signs the lease is agreeing to pay the total amount of the rent, not the split amount. This means that upon the death of your roommate, you will become the sole signer on the lease and be held liable to pay the full amount. Therefore, your landlord can hold you responsible for paying the entirety of the lease amount each month upon the death of the co-signer and can take legal action against you if you do not meet the full amount of the lease.

Can You Hold Your Roommate Accountable for Rent After Their Death?

When your roommate dies, you may not have the funds to pay the full amount of the rent each month, which may be why you had a roommate in the first place. Finding a new roommate to take their place could take a significant amount of time, and you may need the funds immediately. Additionally, you may be grieving the loss of your roommate and the thought of finding a replacement roommate immediately may be the last thing on your mind. Fortunately, it is possible to hold your deceased roommate accountable for the remainder of their share of the lease even after their death so that you do not get stuck paying the full lease amount on your own. 

After someone passes, their assets will go through probate court, which is the process in which all affairs are settled after the death of an individual. As their roommate, you can submit a formal request in probate court to have the deceased’s share of the lease become a part of the Estate. By doing this, you may be able to receive the necessary funds in probate court as your deceased’s roommate's share of the lease will become part of their debt that needs to be repaid with the remaining finances that they left behind. 

In order to ensure that you can hold your roommate accountable for their share of the lease even after their death, you and your roommate can create and sign a legally binding contract stating that if one of you were to die, you can hold their Estate accountable for paying their portion of the lease. This is a great option for those who are creating their Estate Plan and concerned about this event occurring. 

What Happens if Your Deceased Roommate Does Not Have Sufficient Funds?

Occasionally, your roommate who passes may not have enough money left behind to cover their share of the rent. In this situation, their assets, such as cars and property, may be sold to help repay their debt. In the event that this is still not sufficient enough funds, you may want to go to your landlord to discuss your concerns about being able to pay your lease. It is possible that you may be able to work with your landlord to come up with a solution, such as ending your lease early. However, this will be dependent upon your individual situation and landlord agreement. 

Cleaning Out Your Roommate’s Belongings

Following the death of your roommate, their belongings will need to be cleared out of your joint living space. It is possible you may have to hold on to their possessions while probate court proceedings occur to determine who the new owners will be. Otherwise, you can expect that family members of your roommate will need to access your home to collect the deceased’s belongings. It will be important to set up times for them to pick up the deceased’s belongings, as you may need to be there to let them in and want to monitor the situation. 

Creating your Estate Plan and determining the necessary items to include within your Estate Plan can seem like a time-consuming and stressful process. Trust & Will wants to help make this process simpler to alleviate the hassle. If you are unsure where to start, we offer a free online quiz to help you begin planning.