What to Do When Your Tenant is a Hoarder
If you’ve seen the shows on TV, you have an idea of what a hoarder is. These are individuals or families that accumulate so much stuff their home becomes unlivable. It’s hard to watch when it’s on television and happening to someone else. Imagine if it happened in your rental property.
Hoarding is a recognized mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. It’s a subtype of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). This means two things: the tenant likely can’t help themselves and it’s recognized as a disability. You’ll need to handle your potential hoarder very carefully because of this.
Breach of the Lease
As a landlord, you’re required to provide a habitable place to live. At the same time, your tenant is required to keep their rental clean and sanitary. This should be listed very clearly in your lease agreement, along with other responsibilities you each have. Someone having a cluttered or dirty home may not be a violation of the lease, but hoarding or general messiness that creates a hazard might. This includes:
● Causing damage to the property
● Blocking exits
● Attracting pests
● Creating a fire hazard
● Creating unsanitary conditions including in the kitchen or the bathrooms
If your tenant’s hoarding causes any of these situations, you must address it. Your first step isn’t eviction. Hopefully you can avoid that, but if not, make sure you’ve done everything else first.
Reach Out to the Tenant
Contact the tenant and let them know what you’ve seen and how you feel it may be a breach of their lease agreement. Spell everything out in very clear details. You don’t want there to be any confusion. It’s possible that with a warning, they may correct the situation and clean things up. It’s also possible that it’s not actual hoarding but a temporary situation. Either way, you need to give tenants a chance to fix it.
Offer to Help
Your first point of contact shouldn’t be accusatory or unnecessarily harsh. If this person is a genuine hoarder, they likely know they have a problem. Start from a place of compassion and maybe you can help them. If you know of a good storage unit place or a great house cleaning company, share that information. You may also consider sharing the name of a doctor or clinic that can help with their hoarding, but tread carefully. Not everyone will be okay being told they need to see a doctor. They may reject your help, but at least you’ll know you tried.
Through this entire process, even if it gets resolved, make sure you document everything.
● Take pictures and video of the hoarding you’ve witnessed.
● Keep copies of all written communication - emails, certified letters, text messages, etc.
● Do as much in writing as possible for easier documentation.
● Take notes after phone calls or in-person conversations to document what was said.
Start the Eviction Process
Hopefully you won’t get this far, but the reality is that you might. If you’ve tried everything, and your rental is still in poor condition (or getting worse!), you might not have any other options. Triple check your documentation which should show your efforts at reasonable accommodations and the time frame you gave your tenants to correct the problem. Contact a real estate attorney and start the eviction process.
You can’t predict that someone will become a hoarder, but you can check their references before you let them rent from you. If this is an ongoing problem, previous landlords will be able to tell you if they left behind damage or violated the lease agreement in the past. You can’t reject someone for being a hoarder but you can deny their application based on poor references.
If the idea of dealing with a hoarder and going through the eviction process sounds like a nightmare, you don’t have to do it alone. Work with a property management company who knows the law, can document everything, and help with the eviction process. At ERA American Real Estate, we have the knowledge and resources to help you handle a hoarding tenant. Contact us today!