There will be many emotions to deal with if you ever receive the sad news that a tenant has passed away. You may have been friends with the tenant, and even if not, it’s always a difficult time for friends and loved ones of the deceased. As a landlord you will need to make some decisions about the rental property, most likely after speaking with family members of the deceased. West Virginia landlord tenant law has a specific statute that directs landlords on the issue of death of a tenant, W. Va. Code, § 37-6-11. While the language of the statute is not specific the procedure refers to the death of the sole or final tenant.

Payment of rent

When the sole or final tenant dies, the statute stipulates that rent may be recovered from an heir, personal representative, devisee or assignee, who has succeeded to tenant’s estate in the premises. However, no assignee is liable for rent which became due before their interest in the premises began. The statute goes on to state that “...nothing herein shall change or impair the liability of heirs, personal representatives, or devisees, for rent, to the extent and in the manner in which they are liable for other debts of the ancestor or testator; nor shall the mere merger of the reversion to which a rent is incident affect the liability for such rent.”

Terminating the rental agreement

The statute also allows for the termination of the rental agreement upon the death of the tenant, again, the presumption is that it’s the sole or final tenant, as any remaining tenants living in the premises continue to be severally liable for the remainder of the rental agreement. The law allows an heir, personal representative, or assignee of the tenant to terminate the rental agreement prior to its expiration. Termination is effective on the last day of the month which is two months after either the date the notice to terminate is delivered to the landlord or the date the notice is postmarked. When a lease is terminated under these circumstances the tenant’s estate is liable for rent or other amounts owed prior to or during the two month notice period and for the payment of any amounts necessary to restore the premises to its original condition, aside from ordinary wear and tear.