How to Deal with Hoarder Tenants

Written on September 23, 2013 by , updated on December 3, 2019

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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Infographic

Source: AppFolio.com

photo credit: WickedVT, BuzzFarmers, Earthworm, scottnj via cc
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44 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • jeb

    To those who criticize landlords for trying to get hoarders out, even though they validate that this is a mental disorder, put yourself in the landlords position. You rent out a clean, recently renovated apt. Spent quite a bit for the renovation, have pride in how you keep your property, want to provide decent housing and you get a tenant that hoards, damages the unit, makes the whole place smell like dead rats and there’s nothing you can do about it. Come on…..landlords aren’t therapists, residential apartments aren’t rehab centers, etc. These people with mental disorders should be forced to either seek therapy or make it possible for landlords to evict them. Anyone ever think about the fire damage a hoarder can be responsible for?

  • A. Scott Fulkerson

    The problem with the theory here is that hoarding is a diagnosis within DSM-V. Therefore, it’s a disability under federal law. Therefore, evicting a tenant for some other reason is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to violate the clearly established federal law. I don’t see a federal district judge siding with a landlord over this, absent some extremity- and the costs to the landlord can be more than astronomical if found to have violated either the Americans with disabilities Act or the Federal Fair Housing Act. Even if the landlord is successful with eviction, they can still be sued under one or both of these federal laws. Therefore, it is wise to consult an attorney with experience in federal law to deal with things.

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