What to Do if Your Tenant is a Hoarder: A Comprehensive Guide

Hoarding is more than just excessive clutter. It’s a complex issue that affects many, and for landlords, it can present unique challenges. If you suspect your tenant might be hoarding, it’s essential to approach the situation with understanding and tact.

We understand that 32% of landlords say high-maintenance tenants are one of their greatest concerns. Hoarders take this to the extreme.

In this guide, we’ll dive into recognizing signs of hoarding, the legalities involved, and actionable steps you can take.

What Can Landlords Do About Hoarders?

Dealing with a tenant who is a hoarder can be a challenging and sensitive issue for landlords. Hoarding, as recognized in many jurisdictions, is a mental health condition, making it essential to approach the situation with empathy and understanding while also ensuring the safety of the property and its occupants.

Here’s a comprehensive guide on what landlords can do about hoarders.

1. Understand the Issue

  • Educate Yourself: Before taking any action, it’s vital to understand what hoarding is. It’s not merely a case of someone being messy; it’s a complex mental health issue that can be deeply rooted in emotions and trauma.

2. Open Lines of Communication

  • Initiate a Discussion: Reach out to the tenant and express your concerns in a non-confrontational manner. It’s essential to be patient, empathetic, and willing to listen.

3. Document Everything

  • Take Photos and Keep Records: If you suspect that a tenant is hoarding, it’s essential to document the condition of the property with photos, especially if there are safety concerns. However, remember to respect privacy laws and provide proper notice before entering a tenant’s unit.

4. Know the Laws

  • Legal Protections: Since hoarding can be classified as a mental health disorder, tenants might have certain legal protections against discrimination. Always consult local regulations and fair housing laws before taking any action.

5. Offer Assistance

  • Suggest Professional Help: Encourage the tenant to seek counseling or therapy from professionals who specialize in hoarding behaviors.
  • Provide a Cleanup Timeframe: If the tenant is willing, suggest a reasonable timeframe for them to clean and organize their space.

6. Safety is Paramount

  • Conduct Inspections: Regularly inspect the property to ensure there are no immediate safety hazards like blocked exits, structural damage, or fire risks.
  • Enlist Professional Cleanup: In severe cases, consider offering the assistance of professional cleanup services, ensuring it’s done with the tenant’s permission.

7. Eviction as a Last Resort

  • Seek Legal Counsel: If all efforts fail and the hoarding is causing significant damage or safety concerns, eviction might be the only option. Before doing so, consult with a legal professional familiar with tenant rights and local regulations regarding hoarding.

8. Prevention

Regular Check-ins: Establishing a routine of periodic property inspections (with proper notice) can help in early detection and management of potential hoarding issues.

Clear Lease Terms: Ensure the lease has clear terms about maintaining the property in a safe and habitable condition.

Balancing empathy with the practicalities of property management is essential when dealing with hoarding tenants. By understanding the issue, being proactive, and seeking solutions that respect both the tenant’s rights and the property’s integrity, landlords can navigate these challenges effectively.

Can You Evict a Tenant For Hoarding?

In many jurisdictions, tenants are protected under fair housing laws, which prevent discrimination based on disabilities, including mental health conditions.

Given that hoarding is recognized as a mental health disorder, it means landlords must approach the situation with a heightened sense of care and understanding. Evicting someone solely because they hoard might be viewed as discriminatory.

However, landlords do have a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of all tenants and the overall integrity of their property. If a tenant’s hoarding behavior creates safety hazards, such as blocked exits, structural damages, or fire risks, landlords may have legitimate grounds to seek eviction.

Likewise, if the condition of the property deteriorates due to hoarding, causing issues like pest infestations or damage that violates lease agreements, landlords might have a basis for eviction.

Before considering eviction, landlords should first attempt to work with the tenant. This can involve opening lines of communication, suggesting professional help, or offering resources to address the hoarding behavior. If these attempts are unsuccessful and the property remains in jeopardy, eviction might be the only viable option.

It’s essential that landlords consult with legal counsel familiar with tenant rights and local regulations regarding hoarding before initiating any eviction proceedings. This ensures that they are not only acting within the bounds of the law but also approaching the situation with the necessary sensitivity and respect.

Steps to Take With a Hoarding Tenant

If you believe your tenant is a hoarder and your property is at risk, here are the steps we recommend taking.

1. Recognize the Signs of a Hoarder

  • Excessive Clutter: While everyone can have a messy day now and then, hoarding involves persistent and excessive clutter that compromises the livability of the space.
  • Blocked Exits: When doors, windows, or hallways are obstructed, it’s a clear sign that there might be a hoarding issue.
  • Complaints from Neighbors: Other tenants or neighbors might complain about pests, odors, or clutter spilling out.

2. Understand the Legalities

  • Hoarding is recognized as a mental health issue. As such, evicting a tenant solely for hoarding can be legally complex.
  • Always consult local regulations and fair housing laws before taking any drastic measures.

3. Engaging with the Tenant

  • Open a Line of Communication: Talk to your tenant calmly and express your concerns without being confrontational.
  • Recommend Professional Help: Encourage tenants to seek help from therapists or counselors who specialize in hoarding behaviors.

4. Evaluating Safety and Health Concerns

  • Hoarding can lead to safety hazards, such as fire risks, structural damages, and pest infestations.
  • Conduct a thorough property inspection to assess the situation and determine the severity.

5. Enlisting Professional Cleanup Services

  • If your tenant agrees to clean up or if the situation mandates it, consider hiring professional cleanout services like Contractors Niagara.
  • A professional service will handle the cleanup efficiently, ensuring the property is restored to a habitable condition.

Dealing with a hoarding tenant requires a balance of understanding, patience, and assertiveness. While it’s essential to protect your property and ensure the safety of all tenants, it’s equally vital to approach the situation with empathy.

Final Thoughts on Tenants Who Are Hoarders

You understand as a landlord that dealing with tenants can be a time-consuming and stressful duty. When you are dealing with a hoarder, it’s many magnitudes more difficult. Hoarding causes damage to properties and creates other issues that must be dealt with as soon as possible.

If you believe that your tenant may be a hoarder, first recognize the signs. It might start small at first, but it can be excess waste and belongings, pests, and fire hazards. These quickly compound and can turn into a serious problem before you know it.

Start by having peaceful communication with the tenant. Is there anything you can do to help? Are they willing to work with you on cleaning up the unit?

Try to work with them, but in the worst case, you may need to seek legal help to understand your landlord’s rights and evict them.

If you find yourself in a position where you need to clean a hoarded property, contact us to get a free quote.

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Carmine Mastropierro

Carmine is a life-long Niagara Falls resident, marketing expert, and the Co-Founder of Contractors Niagara.

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