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Ask Curbed: My Landlord is Dead, Now What?

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A reader emails with a question regarding the rights of a renter in informal housing situations (no lease). The question is presented in a complex story abut two old people, one dead, one foreign, both living in Los Feliz, and the complexities of the legal system. It's the screenplay we never wrote.

"A 60-year old co-worker of mine rents a room in a single family home in Hollywood/Los Feliz area. Recently, he returned home from a trip abroad to find that his ‘landlord’ (i.e., the owner of the house), had passed away during his trip. No foul play – the owner was elderly (94) and infirm. My co-worker was apparently left a little money in the will to help him re-locate (I don’t know the sum)." Yesterday he received a very legal-looking notice in the mail giving him 60 days to vacate. Which, I suppose, he was prepared to do, but he was shocked at receiving such a notice and worries that he’s being sued or that he’s now entangled in the legal system. My co-worker is no spring chicken, and being from a foreign land, our laws are a little confusing to him. Heck, they’re confusing to most of us. My question is: do renters in his situation (likely with no formal rental agreement; renting a room in a single family home) have vastly different or reduced rights to those renting in a traditional apartment dwelling? Does anyone know of any resources or direction I can give this fellow? Ideas of where or whom to get advice or representation from will be GREATLY appreciated."