My Tenant Died, What Now?

What you can do as a landlord when your tenant dies, depends on when the lease was signed.

Leases concluded before January 1, 2019 are governed by the Federal Rent Act for which art. 1742 of the Civil Code states:

“The lease shall not be terminated by the death of the landlord, nor by the death of the tenant.”

In this situation, the death of a tenant can cause quite a few practical and financial problems for a landlord. After all, the landlord does not always know who the heirs of his tenant are or there are no heirs, with the result that the lease continues, the rent arrears accumulate, the premises are not vacated and therefore cannot be re-let etc. In this case, appointing a trustee over the deceased tenant’s unmanaged estate can be a solution, but this often takes a long time.

Leases concluded as of January 1, 2019 are governed by the Flemish Housing Decree, which provides a new regulation in art. 42 regarding the death of the tenant to meet the aforementioned problems:

“In the event of the death of the last tenant, the lease shall be dissolved by law at the end of the second month following the death of the last tenant, unless the tenant’s heirs have declared within that period that they will continue the lease.”

A lease now does terminate automatically (2 months) after the death of the tenant.

The tenant’s heirs have a period of 2 months after the death to arrange the practical settlement of the lease. If they fail to do so, if there are no heirs or if the heirs reject the inheritance, the lease will automatically end after 2 months and the landlord can ask for 2 months of rent arrears and a fee worth of 1 month rent to cover the cost of re-letting the premises at the expense of the estate.

In addition, the landlord can ask the Justice of the Peace to appoint a trustee over the household goods to arrange the eviction of the premises.

The trustee over the household goods has the same powers and obligations as a trustee over the unmanaged estate, with the difference that he only takes care of the household goods, the money and the movable property found in the rental property. The trustee’s management does not extend to settling the entire estate of the deceased tenant, as a result of which his task takes less time and the rented premises can be made available to the landlord more quickly.

In practical terms, the landlord must submit a petition to the competent Justice of the Peace in which he demands the appointment of a trustee over the household goods on the basis of art. 42 Flemish Housing Decree and the release of the rental deposit. The Justice of the Peace will then visit the premises and draw up a report describing the household goods, the money and the movable values found in the rental property. The items found are then given to the appointed trustee who can sell them after a 30-day waiting period.

The trustee’s mandate ends after the sale of the goods. The Justice of the Peace will then rule on the allocation of the benefits of the sale and the release of the rental deposit. The trustee’s mandate also ends when heirs emerge. They must then reimburse the trustee for his expenses.

If the landlord’s claim has been settled with the benefits of the sale and the release of the rental deposit, then the landlord can proceed without further ado. If not, he can still file a petition to have a trustee appointed over the unmanaged estate so that he can submit a claim in the estate, which will then be settled by the other appointed trustee.

However, by first having a trustee appointed over the household goods alone, the landlord can dispose of his property sooner!

For more information or questions on this subject, you can reach us by telephone 03 216 70 70 or via email at [email protected]

Contributing Advisors