Landlord 101 – Finding a corpse

October 27th, 2017 · 4 Comments · Property Management, Rental Property

People who have difficult and traumatic jobs often use humour as a means of lightening the mood and making it easier to cope with difficult situations. Observers and family members would consider their jokes horrifying and completely inappropriate. Having said that, it’s pretty common for property managers and building staff members to “check the stairwells for bodies” or “see if someone died in there” when investigating an apartment or walking around the building.

I don’t think I’ll be making that kind of joke anymore in the future, but the corpse I found is still quite fresh in my mind… not actually fresh, but you get the picture.

How To Find A Corpse

A quite desperate owner called me from the Unites States with a problem. His tenant owed rent and wouldn’t call him back or respond in any way. He had delivered the N-4 notice for non payment of rent and the tenant had considerable rent arrears. The rental unit was in a downtown condo. He had no idea if the tenant was still living there, and with the considerable rent arrears I thought it would be quite likely that the tenant moved out and just ghosted him.

My immediate advice was to check the activity on the security device (FOB) and see if there was any signs of entry and exit of the building recently. In this case, there had been no activity for over a month on the FOB, and the last activity had been a few days before the end of the month. I assumed that the tenant had skipped out because they owed so much rent.

The owner had no keys for the unit, so we spoke to building management and arranged a locksmith, and building security to go with us to do what we expected would be a simple lock change after all it had been more than a month since the last movement was detected on the security system. During this several week process, because of the curious disappearance of the tenant, I often joked that maybe he died… you just never know, it’s weird when a responsible tenant just seems to disappear.

Enter the Apartment

I entered the apartment, the place was squeaky clean but the furniture was all there. I dunno, maybe the tenant just packed up his stuff and left. I walked in… and spotted some legs through the bedroom door, I startled and turned away and walked back towards the front door of the apartment. My immediate thought was that I had disturbed someone sleeping in his bed. I walked back towards the front door of the apartment thinking I would go knock really loudly and shout “Manager” to wake them and not intrude on their privacy. Simultaneously my brain was registering that the legs I had seen were not very healthy looking and in fact were probably very dead legs. I had seen similar legs on concentration camp victim pictures.

I told the security guard, and she went and verified that he was fully dead and not sick or anything.

The next step was to call the Police which I did, and I told them the entire story I just told you and they declared it a crime scene. The Police arrived first and then Fire Fighters came to help with resuscitation efforts which were overdue by approximately a month so they took one look and left. Another Police officer came by to guard the door from anyone while waiting for the Police Detective and the Coroner to come and check the scene. I just sat outside the apartment with the Police Officer for a while.

As I was waiting around until everyone was done asking me questions, it became very boring as the bureaucracy of death slowly plodded towards its conclusion. I had to call a few people “Sorry I found a dead guy so I have to reschedule”, but they didn’t seem to mind.  Finally around 6pm I left and went home.  The dead guy hadn’t even been removed yet, but no one involved was in rush. The apartment was sealed off for investigation. The next of kin had to be notified and that was it.

The Cat

The building had a cat on their records as living in the suite so I got scared and thought maybe the cat hid away when the police was there and was trapped in the apartment. I do have a history with cats, last year with Jimmy the Cat and the year before with 9 cats from the cat hoarder. The detective was extremely nice about it, and sent someone over to check if there was a cat.  Thankfully no cats… but I did manage another panic before it all got sorted.

Next of Kin

Next the family had to be notified and thankfully the Police did that, and then we touched base to co-ordinate me getting the keys after they had moved out all the belongings. They were very nice and I managed not to say anything ignorant or unkind.

Suite Repair

Something unspeakable had soaked into the carpet so we changed it. Other than that and a vacant smell, the apartment is rent ready. So if you know someone who would love a suite in a downtown condo, just give me a ding.  It’ll just be you and the ghost and goblins. Also comes with parking.

I’ve also told myself no more “whistling in the graveyard” type jokes, it’s not funny when you  actually find a corpse. But for the record, it’s better to find someone has passed away, then to evict them for non payment of rent, and find out 6 months later they died in the hospital of a bleeding ulcer. Not that the cause of death was a surprise, I’ve never seen so many bottles of Jack Daniels in my life. Generally the family informs you that the person has passed on and the estate quickly takes care of their belongings.

Happy Hallowe’en



Get Your Free Landlord Documents Now! 

4 Comments so far ↓

  • Christine

    “the bureaucracy of death slowly plodded towards its conclusion”…good phrase.
    I guess real life isn’t usually Murder, She Wrote.
    And the humour is essential.

  • Rachelle

    I can tell you after the first few minutes, which are shocking and exciting, it’s very pedantic.

  • Lily

    According to Crime Scene Investigations, lemon is suppose to get the smell out, though the way it was used in the duffel bag episode, Sara was bathing with a lemon so applying it to an apartment will be tricky. Lemon oil? Lemon lysol? Baking soda paste?

    Is having my Aunt listed as my emergency contact on my rental application enough for the Landlord to let her into my apartment if I missed work, or didn’t call or text back within two days when that is out of character for me? I don’t want to starve to death or be remembered by my neighbours as a bad smell : (

    This is the first time (and hopefully only!) time you’ve found a body, but have you dealt with a dead tenant situation before? Wow, so his family already got all his stuff out?

    I always drop a post-dated cheque into the landlord’s mailbox one month before it’s due, but will that bounce if I’m declared dead? Obvious I hope to live a long, happy, and healthy life, but if i die young, I don’t want my family to have to get all my stuff out in a hurry especially since they are old, and I live in a ‘walk up’.

    • Rachelle

      Well if your aunt is close enough to you, to know when you are missing, that is protection enough. I would suggest giving her a key if you want her to be able to check on you without too much trouble.

      Yes, hopefully the last time I find a body, but not the first time we’ve had people pass away. Most of the time they pass away in the hospital and the family informs us and we work with the family on compassionate grounds to help with the deceased items and to resolve the tenancy.

      Once you are dead, all your accounts get frozen until the estate is resolved. I would say that the best plan is to live a minimal life, so that your possessions are not overwhelming. I have heard of people who have an arrangement to “clean” the person’s apartment, clean the porn off your computer and find your vibe and throw it into the trash, before the relatives take over.