No one ever prepares to find a body, it’s simply something that property managers don’t consider in their list of daily responsibilities. Unfortunately, if you do, it’s likely going to be an upsetting and confusing experience. Not knowing the steps to take will weigh heavily on those emotions and reacting in the moment could make it harder.

Whether a tenant suicide, accident, natural death, or suspicious circumstances, property managers will always have a role to play if a body is found in one of their homes.

Below, we list a few of the ways you can respond to a body cleanup in a calm, effective, and quick manner.

Act timely

Upon finding or being told about a body, it may seem like a good idea to take your time before taking action to assess the situation. However, an unattended death can pose health risks to both you and other tenants in the building. Decomposing bodies release toxic odors within just a few hours, as gasses are released by bacteria once body tissues begin to break down.

You should report the body to the police no less than one hour after hearing the news. After the body is removed and the crime scene has been lifted,, you must then contact a professional cleanup company to attend to the scene. Do not try to move or clean around the body yourself—DIY attempts to restore a biohazard scene are not worth the potential physical and psychologically harmful consequences.

Seal off the affected property

The discovery of a dead body impacts everyone in the building, not only the people who are immediately involved. You have to keep people calm and away from the scene in order to allow you and other professionals to carry out their duties. If necessary, speak with tenants and briefly explain what has happened (no need to go into details) and ask them to respect that the location has been blocked off. They should also know that cleanup crews will be coming and going, and that the police and other services will be in the building too.

Some property managers choose to change the locks of the affected property, so as to prevent unauthorized people entering and the body, or scene, potentially being disrupted.

Leave things to the professionals

Professional cleanup crews have protective equipment and specialized knowledge to safely remove belongings like carpets, drapes, and other furniture that may be contaminated. They also have the tools to correctly clean stains and ensure that there are no health risks to others. For example, technical cleaning companies, like Valor, can get rid of blood stains that may have seeped through floorboards, and which if left untreated, can start to smell and form additional bacteria.

Not only are professional cleanup crews more thorough in their work, but they can also alleviate the emotional toll of removing a body. Facing death and its aftermath can be extremely traumatic and trigger feelings of sadness and grief. Rather than oversee everything yourself, cleanup crews can share the responsibility and offer you any support that you need.

Always have up-to-date insurance

Amidst such a stressful time, it is reassuring to have one less thing to worry about, especially when that worry is cost. Most building insurance and renter insurance policies will cover all the expenses of biohazard remediation and reconstruction of contaminated areas. You’ll have to contact your provider—ideally as soon as possible—but they’ll explain the necessary next steps.

Be aware of your legal obligations

It’s important to know that you as the property manager could be held liable if you don’t follow certain legal requirements. State statute says that you could be fined for not reporting a dead boy, and fined up to $2 million if a body is not appropriately removed and the area cleaned. There are also laws around the disposal of biohazardous waste—throwing blood-stained items in the trash can lead to fines between $200,000 to $20 million, and in some cases, a prison sentence.

Professional cleanup crews know how to be compliant with these laws and have specific containers to collect and dispose of biohazardous waste. Hiring a professional company to help remove a dead body goes a long way to legally protect yourself and your property company.

A body cleanup is no easy feat, and that’s why it’s essential that you know what to do if it ever falls on your shoulders. We hope you never have to use the information listed here, but it’s always better to be prepared than panicked in such a situation.