BRADLEY ISA (RA)
2015 NARPM Oahu Chapter President
Director, Affordable Housing, Property Management Division
Q. What are some tips for dealing with a death in your rental property on a personal level? I have an older tenant that I adore and I am trying to prepare for the possibility.
A. As someone who manages a rental property, you know that being prepared is important.
My initial experience in the Property Management field was in senior low income housing. At my company, I’ve had the unfortunate experience of finding a lot of tenants who had passed away. I won’t talk about any specific situation but will take things from past experience as well as what I’ve learned from other Property Managers.
Let’s run through a typical scenario.
A relative calls you and says they haven’t been able to contact their loved one for a day now. You know this is an emergency so you grab the keys to the unit and head over there quickly. You knock on the door, no answer. You open the door carefully and call out to the tenant. No answer.
You enter the house which is poorly lit but you can make your way around. You go through the house calling out to the tenant and finally find the body in the bedroom.
You call 911 and report a deceased tenant and the rental unit address.
Without going into too many details, here are a few tips regarding entering the property:
Wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt. Be prepared to dispose of your clothing after your inspection.
Wear shoes and do not take them off before entering the unit. It’s a good idea to have a few hospital type “booties”
(shoe coverings) on hand at all times. You can find these at medical supply stores.
Go with someone else if possible. No matter how you handle this, it will be a traumatic experience.
When calling out to the tenant, be very loud. Make your presence known. Be ready to run for the door if you hear growling.
If you have the experience of finding a deceased tenant in your rental, you’ll have to deal with the cleanup. Here are some tips about how to go about that.
Smells: I’ve gotten advice from medical, police, and fire professionals, but what works for one person may not work for another. Vicks VapoRub or Cool Water women’s perfume on facial tissue stuffed in your nose or cinnamon powder in a cloth held over your mouth and nose works for some people. Try not to open your mouth.
If bodily fluid is present, hire a bio-hazard removal company which can also disinfect and remove odors. They should be able to remove tile, carpet, drywall, etc. so that your regular handyman/contractor can do the repairs.
Find someone you can talk to. For me, personally, the experience was always traumatic but I had great supervisors and co-workers I could confide in. After the initial shock, I had to make sense of the situation. Then I could accept it and move forward. Seek the advice of a professional counselor if you feel that it would be beneficial.