**Note**This is not legal advice. For specific legal advice, you need to consult a lawyer to help make the best decision for you and the estate of the deceased.

When a person passes away in a rented apartment or home In Hawaii and they aren’t found for a period of time, the rental unit will need to be cleaned of all biohazards before it can be rented out to a new tenant. Due to the nature of biohazard cleaning, only professional biohazard cleaners should undertake this difficult work. How extensive the cleaning will be depends on how the person died and how long it was before they were found.

Such cleaning can be expensive due to the skills and materials needed to complete biohazard cleanup. Whether the tenant, another person on the lease, or the landlord themselves pays for it depends on several factors to be discussed below. First, though, there are several things you must do right away to protect yourself and your property.

Steps to take first

Before you even start cleaning the property and figuring out who will pay for it, there are several steps you need to take make sure everything is legal and you and your investment are protected from any liability.

  1. Call the police right away: The first step is to call the police as soon as the body has been discovered. Don’t touch anything as you could be damaging needed evidence. Instead, vacate the property as soon as possible, seal it off from anyone else entering, and call the police. Only police officers will be able to discern whether or not a crime was committed and release the scene back to the property owner. If the body decomposition process has made any other neighboring units unsafe, such as a next door or downstairs neighbor, make sure that person leaves the property and is housed elsewhere until biohazard cleaners can restore the property.
  2. Contact the next of kin: After contacting the police, pull the rental agreement to find out who is the emergency contact for your tenant. Check with the police first for the proper way to proceed. If they give the okay, let the emergency contact know your tenant has passed away and you need to speak with the next of kin or whoever is in charge of that person’s estate. Be compassionate when speaking to the tenant’s family. While you want to have the apartment cleaned out as soon as possible to keep your income stream coming in, remember that person just lost their loved one and they are trying to figure out what to do while grieving their deep loss. The tenant’s next of kin will have the right to have the body removed and they should arrange for this as soon as the police have given permission to do so.
  3. Seal off the apartment: After the body has been removed, the apartment will need to be cleaned of all biohazards left from the decomposing body before the next of kin can pack the tenant’s possessions. As the tenant may have given an extra key to a friend or family member, you’ll need to change the locks so the property is secure.

Figuring out who pays for the cleaning

Typically, the person or people on the lease are responsible for cleaning out the apartment and returning it in good condition, aside from normal wear and tear. If there were two or more people on the lease and only one of them passed away, it will be up to the other person or people to make sure the apartment is professionally cleaned of all biohazards before the next of kin clean out the possessions of the one who passed away. If there was only one person on the lease and they died, then it will be up to their estate to pay for the property cleanup.

In some cases, the person who signed the lease and then passed away had no assets for which to pay for the cleaning. In these cases, it is still the legal responsibility of the property owner to make sure all biohazards have been professionally removed and the property made safe. The rental property cannot be legally rented out until this vital step is taken. While you will need to check Hawaii state law for specifics, you should be able to use the tenant’s deposit to pay for any needed biohazard cleanup.

Property Insurance

Some property owners carry insurance that will pay for biohazard cleanup in situations such as these. Depending on the wording of the property insurance policy, biohazard cleanup after a tenant has died may or may not be covered. To find out whether or not your insurance covers biohazard cleanup after an unattended death, check your policy or call your insurance company. If you do not have this coverage, you as the landlord will be responsible for the cost of cleanup if your tenant did not have the assets to cover it.

Take care of biohazard cleanup as soon as possible

Whoever pays for biohazard cleanup, the cleanup needs to be taken care of as soon as possible. The longer biohazards are left on the property, the more damage they will do and the more building materials will need to be replaced before a safe environment can be reestablished.

Call Bio X Hawaii today for a free quote and consultations. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have and help guide you through the biohazard cleanup process.

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