When you first move in to your brand new apartment, the last thing that you expect is that someone recently died there.
But it happens more often than you might think and it can be really jarring to find out that your new home was the site of a recent death.
So what can you do about this?
In this article, I am going to answer that question, including legal and emotional remedies that may be available to you.
I will also cover whether a landlord needs to disclose this, why a death in the residence matters to people, and how you can find out if a death recently occurred in your rental.
If you don’t have the time to read through it all, here’s a short answer to the question:
If you find out that someone recently died in your apartment, you have a number of potential options. First, you may have a right to terminate your lease early, depending on the terms you negotiated with your landlord. If this is not an option, you can also try to find a replacement tenant or negotiate another type of compromise with your landlord.
Ok, let’s get into it.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
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What Can I Do If Someone Died in My Apartment?
As mentioned at the top of the article, there are a number of remedies that may be available to you if you discover that someone died in your apartment. Let’s talk about some of the most common ones.
Break the Lease
Obviously, if you want to move out of the apartment because of the death, your best option is to see if you can break the lease early.
If you are on a month to month lease or your lease term is expiring soon, then you can get out of the lease pretty quickly and without much fuss. But if you signed up for a long term lease and there is still a lot of time on it, then you will need to see if the lease allows early termination.
In some cases, leases will allow a tenant to break the lease early, but may impose an early termination fee. In other cases, there will need to be a breach of the lease by the landlord or some other condition that allows you to end the tenancy early.
If you want to find out 11 penalty free ways to end your lease early, check out my detailed article on the topic here.
Of course, if the lease does not offer an obvious way out, you can still negotiate with your landlord for an early exit.
One great option is to find a replacement tenant for the landlord who meets all of the landlord’s qualifications.
After all, they will get a tenant with comparable qualifications and there won’t be any disruption in rent or any costs associated with turning over a property for a new tenant.
Seek Legal Advice
If you cannot find a reasonable compromise with your landlord, then you may want to seek legal advice to see if you have any remedies under the lease (that you missed) or under state and local laws.
For example, in some jurisdictions, a landlord may be required to tell you about a death in the apartment (more on that later). If they failed to do so, they would be in violation of the law and you may be able to get out of the lease.
So do your research (or have a competent lawyer help you) to find out of there are other legal options available to you.
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Cleanse and Bless the Space
If you are uncomfortable living in a space where someone died due to spiritual concerns, you can take measures to sanctify the apartment. Depending on your religious beliefs, this can include inviting a religious leader to perform a blessing or other ritual that cleanses the dwelling.
Other common forms of cleansing to get rid of negative vibes or energy include sprinkling the home with salt or smudging the area with sage.
Make Modifications to the Space (As Permitted)
Sometimes a little rearranging or cosmetic changes like repainting and making other small updates to the unit can have a huge impact on clearing out the vibe of the old place and making the new space fresh and more in tune with you and your life.
This can mentally transform the old place where someone died into a new place that is yours and yours alone.
Seek Counseling or Emotional Support
Of course, if you still have lingering emotional issues from living in a space where someone passed away, you can always seek counseling or other forms of emotional support.
Hiring a therapist or even joining a support group can be fine ways to help deal with the emotional trauma you may be experiencing.
Does My Landlord Have to Tell Me If Someone Died In My Apartment?
The answer to this is somewhat complicated.
There is no national law that requires landlords to notify a tenant if someone has died in the rental dwelling. However, state and local laws may have rules in place around this.
For example, in California, if someone died recently (e.g., 3 years ago or less), then the landlord is required to tell a prospective tenant about it.
In contrast, some states like Georgia and South Carolina only require disclosure if the tenant asks, while states like Colorado take a middle of the road approach where landlords must tell tenants about deaths if the there is an issue with the apartment that caused the death and it could still harm the new tenants.
If you want a definitive answer, you will need to hire a lawyer or do a bit of research on the applicable laws in your jurisdiction.
Why Does It Matter That Someone Died in My Apartment?
There are a number of legitimate reasons why someone might be alarmed or disturbed by a recent death in their apartment.
Here are some of the most common ones:
Death was Caused by a Risk that Still Exists
This could take the form of neighborhood violence or crime, a safety issue relating to the dwelling, or some other dangerous condition that persists.
People can feel traumatized knowing there was a recent death in their home, especially if the death was violent or tragic.
If the death is well publicized, there could be some serious stigma associated with living there.
If the tenant ever wants to sublease the apartment or find a replacement tenant, the stigma could make that challenging.
While not everyone believes in ghosts, there are a fair number of people who believe in paranormal entities and occurrences.
Living in a home where someone recently died could definitely scare someone who believes that a ghost or other paranormal being may occupy the premises.
How Do I Find Out If Someone Died in My Apartment?
There are a number of options you can use to check if your apartment had a recent death.
Ask Your Landlord
First, you can simply ask your landlord about it.
Even if the law does not compel them to answer, few landlords will lie when asked a direct question. In fact, if they lie, they could be accused of fraudulently inducing you to enter into the lease when you have shown clear concern about this point.
But even if that cause of action doesn’t apply to you, it never hurts to just ask the question.
Check Public Records
Second, you can check public records, such as police reports or research news articles or obituaries and the like to see if any deaths match up with your apartment.
Ask Your Neighbors
Third, you can ask your neighbors if they are aware of any deaths. They will almost certainly know about them (especially if they were due to violent, tragic, or newsworthy reasons).
Use Online Tools or Hire an Investigator
Fourth you can use paid online services like diedinhouse.com or, if you have the money, you can hire a private investigator to find out for you.
So there you have it – a detailed look at what you can do if someone has died in your apartment and some actionable tips that you can use to deal with this situation.