How to Deal with Hoarder Tenants

Written on September 23, 2013 by , updated on November 9, 2020

Dealing with Hoarder TenantsFor landlords and property managers, discovering that you have a hoarder tenant living in one of your properties can be distressing.

In this article, I will discuss the steps you can take to protect your property without infringing on your tenant’s rights to reasonable accommodations.

Hoarding is a Mental Disorder

According to the American Psychiatric Association, hoarding is a mental health disorder.  When hoarders become renters, they are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act.

Why? Someone who is a compulsive hoarder meets the definition of disability because hoarding is considered to be caused by a mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of the person’s major life activities.

Types of Hoarders

What You Can Do:

Depending on their behavior, the hoarding may constitute a non-economic breach of the lease, which *could* be grounds for eviction. Though you can’t evict a tenant for hoarding, you can evict them for something else.

Check to see if your tenant is in breach of contract for any of the following reasons:

  • Directly damaging to the property
  • Blocking emergency exits
  • Interfering with ventilation or sprinkler systems
  • Storing potentially explosive materials
  • Keeping perishable goods in a manner that could attract mold or rodents
  • Housing animals in a way that breaks the law or lease agreement

There is a thin line between dirty tenants and hoarders, but either way, you should take action sooner rather than later.

Your Action Plan:

In these situations, landlords and property managers should take the following steps:

  1. Document Everything
    Document the condition of the property using pictures, notes and videos.
  2. Offer Help
    Offer the hoarder professional counseling and clean-up.
  3. Give Notice
    Put the tenant on notice and give them the opportunity to remedy the situation.
  4. Get Legal Advice
    Consult with an attorney if the conditions do not change.
  5. Eviction
    Proceed with an eviction if necessary. I detail these steps in the article, How to Evict a Tenant – The Eviction Process in 8 Easy Steps.

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photo credit: WickedVT, BuzzFarmers, Earthworm, scottnj via cc
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