When you’ve made the realization that your tenant is a hoarder, your reality may become quite stressful. You want to be able to protect your property while still respecting your tenant and their rights to reasonable accommodations and accessibility.
What is Hoarding?
Hoarding is a mental disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. Because of this, hoarders who are also tenants are protected under the Fair Housing Act. A landlord cannot deny tenancy to a hoarder, or evict them because of hoarding, because it can be considered discrimination against a disability. This means that in the case of a hoarder tenant, you must make reasonable accommodations for them to live comfortably before you can try to evict them.
It’s also extremely important that you are able to tell the difference between hoarding and dirtiness. A tenant may just be really messy or lazy. In order to identify a slob from a hoarder, you need to assess the extent of the conditions. Usually, hoarding goes beyond the average clutter begins to affect the safety of the home. If a tenant’s belongings are blocking exits and entryways, interfering with ventilation or fire alarms, attracting pests, and/or creating hazards for others, then they may be suffering from hoarding disorder. Otherwise, a tenant is failing to maintain the property, so you may want to ask them to clean up.
What to Do
In the case of having a hoarder as a tenant, you should follow certain steps before taking action to try to evict them.
- Inspect the property and document everything. If you can, take pictures of the unit’s conditions and take note of any damages. You will need to half proof in the future if you find a valid reason to evict your tenant.
- Talk to your tenant and offer them help. You can look online for professional counseling in your area and suggest that your tenant see someone. In addition, you can offer to schedule a special clean-up to transform the tenant’s living space.
- Get legal advice. If you are having trouble remedying the situation and getting your tenant to change the conditions, talk to an attorney. A lawyer will be able to guide your next steps.
When you have tried everything, the best solution may be to evict the tenant. You will have to find a valid reason to evict them so you don’t break anti-discrimination laws. There are also other routes you can take for getting your tenant to move out.
Evicting the Tenant
If your tenant is a hoarder, it’s important that you think about their well-being, as well as that of your property. The tenant’s hoarding behavior may constitute as a violation of the lease and give you grounds for eviction. Always keep the Fair Housing Act and your state laws in mind and be careful when handling the issue. Remember, you can’t evict a tenant for hoarding, but you can evict them for something else. Consider these common lease violations:
- Direct damage to property
- Blocking emergency exits and entryways
- Interfering with alarm systems (i.e. fire, carbon monoxide, security, etc.), sprinkler systems, ventilation, and/or other utilities
- Collecting items that be flammable, explosive, or otherwise dangerous in any way
- Storing perishable goods incorrectly or keeping them past their expiration dates, letting them attract mold and pests
- Keeping pets in a way that breaks the lease (i.e. if there is a “no pets” policy) or breaks the law (i.e. neglecting the animal, abusing the animal, or engaging in other forms of animal cruelty)