Eco Bear received a telephone call from a gentleman named Timothy, who made the call on behalf of his father-in-law, James. Timothy and his wife lived out of state, although James is a resident of California. James owns a smaller apartment building in California, in San Diego.
One of James’ tenants was a veteran named Bob. Unfortunately, Bob passed way in an apartment in the building owned by James. As sometimes happen, Ryan’s death did not become known for over a week from the date he died. His was what technically is known as an unattended death.
Ryan is a vet as is his next door neighbor in the apartment building. The building owner is also a vet. The two tenants are on Section 8 when it comes to rental assistance.
Timothy contacted Eco Bear to arrange for a comprehensive unattended death cleaning on behalf of his father-in-law. In this regard, Timothy raised a number of important issues:
- Need for a thorough unattended death cleaning of Ryan’s apartment to restore the unit to a livable condition.
- Determine the need for any other remediation services in the building (like addressing any odor issues, particularly that might exist in the apartment next door to the one that Ryan died in.
- Determining if the apartment was now accessible despite a do not enter tag remaining on the door.
Comprehensive Unattended Death Cleaning
There are a number of key elements associated with unattended death cleaning, like the type of remediation offered by Eco Bear. Among these key elements of comprehensive unattended death cleaning are:
- Biohazard cleanup: Unattended deaths often involve the release of bodily fluids and other biohazardous materials. These must be safely and thoroughly removed and cleaned up.
- Odor removal: Unattended death scenes can have a strong, unpleasant odor. Effective odor removal is an essential part of the cleaning process.
- Sanitization: Unattended death cleaning requires a high level of sanitization to ensure that all germs, bacteria, and other contaminants are eradicated from the scene.
- Decontamination: The entire area must be decontaminated to ensure that it is safe for future use.
- Personal protective equipment: Professional cleaners must wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks, to protect themselves from exposure to biohazards.
- Disposal: Biohazardous materials and other contaminated items must be disposed of safely and according to local regulations.
- Compassion: Dealing with an unattended death can be an emotional and difficult experience. Professional cleaners must approach each job with compassion and sensitivity to the needs of the family and others affected by the situation.
Unattended Death and the Impact on Other Tenants in Apartment Building
As mentioned a moment ago, there is at least one other tenant in the building that the unattended death in the apartment building in question may impact. This potential impact is governed by what legally is known as the doctrine of quiet enjoyment under landlord and tenant law. There are seven primary elements to the doctrine of quiet of enjoyment, many of which come into play in regard to the matter of a tenant who lives near an apartment in which an unattended death occurred:
- The landlord must give the tenant possession of the property. This means that the landlord must provide the tenant with access to the property and ensure that they are able to take up residence without any hindrance.
- The landlord must not interfere with the tenant’s use of the property. This element of the doctrine of quiet enjoyment means that the landlord cannot restrict the tenant’s use of the property in any way.
- The landlord must not disturb the tenant’s peaceful enjoyment of the property. This includes noisy or disruptive behavior by the landlord or their agents, as well as any actions that prevent the tenant from using the property in a peaceful and comfortable manner.
- The landlord must not allow others to disturb the tenant’s peaceful enjoyment of the property. This element of the doctrine of quiet enjoyment means that the landlord is responsible for ensuring that other tenants, neighbors, or third parties do not interfere with the tenant’s use of the property.
- The landlord must maintain the property in a habitable condition. This means that the landlord must ensure that the property is safe, clean, and in good repair, and that it meets all relevant health and safety standards.
- The landlord must make necessary repairs in a timely manner. This element of the doctrine of quiet enjoyment means that the landlord must address any issues or repairs that arise during the tenancy promptly and efficiently.
- The landlord must not retaliate against the tenant for exercising their rights under the lease or the law. This includes evicting the tenant, increasing rent, or taking any other action that is designed to punish the tenant for asserting their legal rights.
In this case, the owner of the apartment building has a legal responsibility to make sure that other tenants in the apartment building are not affected by the aftermath of Ryan’s unattended death. The property owner’s son was wise in suggesting that an appropriate examination of any impact on another tenant (or tenants) needs to occur to address the aftermath of Ryan’s undiscovered death.
When Unattended Death Cleanup Can Commence
Finally, after an unattended death, law enforcement officials will typically secure the scene and conduct an investigation. Once the investigation is complete, the property owner or landlord will be allowed to re-enter the home. However, it is important to note that the timing of re-entry may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the death. In this case, law enforcement can be contacted to determine if the apartment can be answered. In some instances, the door tag is left on the entry by mistake even though investigation efforts have been completed.