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It’s likely you’ve seen shows on television that focus on hoarders and pack rats. The people featured on these shows have homes that are crammed full of items and mementos they consider to be valuable or sentimental. The reality is, however, that most of the cache in a hoarder house or unit is worth almost nothing. That’s because the items get damaged and/or decayed while stockpiled a filthy home that can’t be cleaned because there is no (or very little) surface space. A person who is a hoarder is a nightmare tenant for a landlord; therefore it’s essential that landlords recognize warning signs of hoarding, as well as tips to stop hoarding before it gets out of hand. Here's how a landlord can recognize hoarders, known to be nightmare tenants.

 

Recognizing Hoarding Signs and Symptoms

Hoarding is considered a very private behavior. A tenant who is a hoarder will be reluctant to let you into their home. If you see these signs and symptoms during a regular unit inspection, you’ll know the tenant is a hoarder.

  • During regular unit inspections, rooms in the unit are found to be unusable, because of the clutter.
  • The tenant is continuously acquiring new items (often unnecessary) but has no space in the unit.
  • The tenant is generally indecisive and has trouble planning and organizing.
  • If asked about cleaning up and/or clearing out, the tenant feels a strong desire to save the items. The tenant may become distressed just by the suggestion of cleaning up and organizing.
  • The tenant also displays avoidance or procrastination if confronted about cleaning up the unit.

An Action Plan for a Hoarding Tenant

Once a hoarder is identified, a landlord should take immediate action. The safety and earning income from your unit are at risk.

Steps to Take to Handle a Hoarder

  1. Collect documentation. Take photographs and videos. Make extensive notes of the clutter you observe and the conversations regarding the clutter with the tenant.
  2. Offer to help the tenant locate helpful resources: professional counseling, contacting family, and/or identifying government agencies or professional cleaners who can assist.
  3. Give the tenant formal notice. This allows them a chance to fix the situation.
  4. Seek legal advice. If conditions do not change after the formal notice, its time to consult with an attorney.
  5. Proceed with eviction if the steps fail.

Contract Considerations

Since hoarding is not grounds for eviction, it’s important to scrutinize the tenant’s contract to identify other reasons for eviction.

Items to Review on the Tenant’s Contract

  • Are emergency exits blocked by clutter and/or debris?
  • Has the hoarding caused direct damage to the unit?
  • Is the clutter interfering with systems like ventilation or sprinklers?
  • Is the tenant housing potentially explosive items?
  • Is there a mold or rodent issue that could be attributed to how the tenant keeps perishable goods?

 

As a landlord you may have to take extensive steps by contacting law enforcement to let them know “my tenant is a hoarder.” Local or county government may also have resources or offer assistance. Agencies like protective services or the health department should be considered as well. The tenant is very likely to need psychological help. The critical step is to take action quickly once you’ve identified such a tenant to protect your rental unit.

 

Amy D. has often thought of moving into the real estate field when she officially retires from education. She really enjoys touring homes during the builders' "Parade of Homes" near her hometown, where newly constructed homes are featured each year. She enjoys keeping up with marketing trends and values in her.

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