The woman's estate was charged rent even after her death. Picture: iStock
The woman's estate was charged rent even after her death. Picture: iStock

Dead woman ordered to pay rent

Death is no end to debts, a top lawyer has warned after a woman's estate was ordered to pay rent for three weeks after she died.

Joanna Pidgeon, a specialist property lawyer at Pidgeon Law and Auckland District Law Society, was commenting on a Tenancy Tribunal ruling where money was charged to an estate after a tenant died.

And that money had to be paid.

Lene Wong died in Ngāruawāhia in September, and her landlord was told of the death by police on September 15. Twin Rivers Real Estate and Courtney Trustees applied to the tribunal for $705 ($A682) rent arrears through to October 6 last year.

That was 21 days after they were notified of her death.

Ms Pidgeon said dying did not discharge a person from their financial responsibilities.

When someone dies and they have a will, that will name those responsible for identifying the assets and liabilities, Ms Pidgeon said. Those people - executers - will be obliged to pay outstanding debts from the assets of the estate and to deal with what remains, she said.

"The executers apply for probate in the will in the High Court which when granted gives them the power to administer the estate. They are required to pay the debts of the estate if there are sufficient funds and then to distribute the estate."

 

A woman’s estate has been forced to pay three weeks’ rent after her death. Pic: iStock
A woman’s estate has been forced to pay three weeks’ rent after her death. Pic: iStock

 

Ian Todd was named as the executor of Wong's estate. He was ordered to pay the money being claimed.

The tribunal said Mr Todd did not dispute the $NZ640 ($A619) bond being released to the landlord.

"The landlord has applied for rent arrears and has provided rent records which prove the amount owing. I note that the rent arrears was calculated until 6 October 2019, which is 21 days after the tenant was found deceased," he said.

The total rent arrears claimed by the landlord was $NZ865.00 ($A837), but once the $NZ640 bond was released, that number in cash came to $NZ225.30 ($A218.13).

"After considering the rent records, I am satisfied that the landlord is entitled to the amount claimed," the adjudicator noted in in their ruling.

Pidgeon said probate existed so that a time period had to elapse until the beneficiaries of an estate were paid out. Probate was usually six months - a time period when those who were claiming money, such as landlords, had enough time to come forward.

"If a claim for payment of a debt is made after six months the creditor risks that the estate will be distributed and there will be no money to distribute," she said.

"If the estate does not have enough money to settle all debts they will usually be paid pro rata from the funds held.

This article originally appeared on the NZ Herald and was reproduced with permission.