My mom signed a1 year lease on an apartment but died 5 weeks into the lease, is her estate liable for the rent for the remaining 11 months of the lease term?

My mom signed a one year lease on an apartment. The lease mentioned only her as an individual, no mention of it being binding on heirs. Is the contract void now that she’s passed away?

Asked on September 6, 2012 under Estate Planning, Washington


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Sorry to hear about your mom.

Unfortunately, death does not terminate a lease.  Your mom's estate would be liable for the rent.  However, the obligation to pay rent ends when the place is re-rented.  The landlord cannot allow the apartment to remain vacant for the duration of the term of the lease without making reasonable efforts to find another tenant.  If the landlord fails to make reasonable efforts to find another tenant, the landlord's damages (the amount the landlord claims is owed) will be reduced accordingly because the landlord failed to mitigate (minimize) damages.  Reasonable efforts on the part of the landlord to find another tenant will be determined by what other landlords in the area are doing to attract tenants; for example, posting a sign on the premises advertising the vacancy, advertising the rental in the newspaper, online, in a local rental guide, etc.  Again, once the place is re-rented, the obligation to pay rent ends.

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