Negotiate Lease to Allow Ending it if Spouse Dies

  Question: My wife and I are senior citizens renting a small house in Payson.  Because we are on a fixed income and our savings have been spent on my wife’s medical bills, we will never be able to buy a home.  We have been living in our house for the last five years on one-year leases, but we would like to sign a longer lease to give us security.  Our landlord is willing to let us sign a three-year lease at the current rental rate when our lease expires next month.  If we sign this three-year lease, and one of us dies, will the surviving spouse have to pay the full rent for the remaining three years?

  Answer:  Yes.  If both of you sign the lease, both of you are obligated for the entire term of the lease.  In other words, if one of you dies, the surviving spouse and assets, if any, in the estate of the deceased spouse have the obligation to pay the full monthly rent for the remainder of the three years.  If that will be a problem, I would suggest that you negotiate with the landlord for a clause in your lease to limit the term of the lease, for example to 90 days, if one of you dies.  The landlord should then have a reasonable opportunity to re-rent the house to a new tenant.

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