Q: I rent my home and have a signed lease. My landlord passed away unexpectedly and I am now dealing with one of her children who inherited the house. She is telling me that I need to move out early so she can sell the house. That would cause me a significant hardship, and I don't want to. Is my lease still valid even though the landlord died? – James
A: Yes. Generally speaking, the death of a landlord will not cancel a lease.
However, like everything in the law, there are some caveats and exceptions. Because a lease is a contract, its contents guide the actions of the people who signed it. This means that unless something in the lease is otherwise illegal, the terms of the lease will decide what happens. I have never seen a contract that states that it is canceled if someone passes away, and most I have seen specifically bind the landlord's estate to the terms of the lease.
Additionally, your being there will not stop the house from being sold, and you will have a valid and binding lease with the new owner, too. A lease is a contract that binds the landlord as well as the tenant. Conversely, you will not be able to get out of the lease early just because of this tragedy.
Still, every lease is different, so you need to carefully review yours to see what your rights and responsibilities are. You should continue communicating with your new landlord. Let her know about the hardship of moving early. Perhaps she will understand, or even offer to "buy" you out of the lease early by helping pay your moving costs. Again, because a lease is just a contract, you can both agree to an early move for the right reasons, if you want to.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.