If someone dies intestate it means that they have died without leaving a will. So their ‘estate’ – ie everything they own at the time they die – will be dealt with under the intestacy rules.
The main questions you will have as a tenant are, “do I still have a tenancy and if so where do I pay the rent?”
Do you still have a tenancy?
Yes. The death of the landlord will not end the tenancy, and whoever ends up owning the property will be bound by it. So you are legally entitled to stay in the property.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Paying the rent
You need to be careful about this, as if you pay the rent to the wrong person you may have to pay it again.
If the landlord was married then you may be reasonably safe paying the rent to the spouse, as they will almost certainly inherit the property. Indeed if they were a joint owner of the property but just not on the tenancy agreement, they will now be your landlord (although they should write and formally tell you this).
However, until you are sure, the safest thing to do is to open a separate interest bearing bank account and just pay your rent in there. It will stay there, safe, until such time as you find out what is happening about the property.
What should happen (assuming that the property was not in joint names) is that someone will get ‘letters of administration’ which means that they will then be legally authorised to deal with the deceased persons estate and arrange for the transfer of any property to anyone entitled to it under the intestacy rules. They are also sometimes known as personal representatives.
It is the administrators who will be entitled to receive the rent until the property is legally transferred to whoever is entitled to it. However, you should require sight of the formal paperwork before handing over any rent money. Just to make sure that they really are the proper person.
You can also check on this by doing a search on the gov.uk website here. However be aware that it may take some time for letters of administration to be granted so you won’t find anything there the day after they die.
You can check on who owns the property in the meantime by doing a search at the Land Registry.
Your right to stay
Whoever ends up owning the property, they will be bound by your tenancy, in the same way that your original landlord was. So, for example, they won’t have any extra special rights to evict you early.
In particular they cannot require you to leave, without serving any notices on you and getting a court order, just becuase your original landlord has died and they want to sell the property.
Your rights under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 remain and if they want to sell, they will either have to sell with you still in residence, or get an order for possession and enforce it through the courts in the normal way.