Hoarding is more than a simple, nasty habit, or childlike refusal to let go. Hoarding can lead to a dangerous, unstable home. It’s also protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, similar to disorders like PTSD, C-PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Compulsive hoarding is an issue of mental health, and while it can lead to many physical, structural issues to your rental property, it must be handled with care – empathetical care.
Anyone can suffer from compulsive hoarding. There is no grand statistic to help you pick a hoarder from any sort of crowd – children as young as thirteen can start hoarding. Because it’s protected by the ADA, once you have a hoarding situation with a tenant, you have to take the long way around to deal with it.
What Is Hoarding?
Use Smoking to your Advantage
One solution may be simply to rent out to another smoker (it could be a great selling point!) until the time comes where you are financially able to really clean up everything from drywall to carpet.
After heavy clean up (including removing all carpet, padding, and cleaning every surface from windows to ceiling) ozone treatment machines can remove the cigarette smell. Ozone treatments are often seen as a go-to for smoke removal and generally run around $300. Be aware that an ozone treatment is invasive, and people cannot be around while it happens, as the toxicity is high enough to cause serious harm.
A hoarder is very different from a collector. With collections, there’s often a process of what is collected, where it goes, and why it’s there. Collectors choose things with a sense of pride and accomplishment, and follow up with displaying their items on shelves, well cared for in their chosen space inside the home.
Hoarding Disorder is defined by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (commonly referred to as the DSM, used to help diagnose and define mental disorders) as:
- The number of items greatly compromises quality of life. Living areas and their use are impaired, social life and occupational life is not functioning.
- If there is an area clean of clutter, it is due to outward intervention from authorities, hired cleaners, or family members
- The perceived hoarding is not because of a different medical condition, such as depression, brain injury, etc.
- Person has a need to ‘save’ items, regardless of their value and has difficulty parting with them.
How Can You Deal with Hoarding?
You deal with hoarding using patience.
Because compulsive hoarding is in the DSM and protected by the ADA, you have to offer reasonable accommodations. Luckily, the main reasonable accommodation here is something that just requires a bit of empathy.
In 2010, Rutland Court Owners, Inc., v. Taylor, made it clear that a landlord must give reasonable accommodations to a hoarding tenant.
In 2005, Douglas v. Kriegsfeld Corporation decided that the landlord had given enough reasonable accommodations – time and offered aid in cleaning – and could swiftly evict the tenant as they pleased.
People with hoarding issues have a problem saying goodbye to things. They want to hold on to something they see as precious. You might see the danger, the smell, the structural damage, and the pest infestations, but they’re seeing treasure.
What's the Process on Dealing with Hoarders?
As long as you’re reasonable, you’ve done your job. Reasonable accommodations are generally the way to go, for both you and your tenants. You never know how many hoarders you’ll come across, or types of disability and how often. The ideal objective is giving the hoarding tenant a reasonable amount of time to literally clean up their act. Document your expected time frame, and why you’re giving them these expectations. Document their lease violations – crowded doorways are a fire hazard and a risk to life in case of emergency. Mold growth and pest infestation can lead to serious (and expensive!) property damage. Be reasonable but firm.
- Have specific expectations – specific standards of health and hygiene for each specific place
- Have a timeline and give that timeline to the tenant
- Consider offering cleaning services to help a tenant get started, services that the tenant can accept and understands will be deducted from their deposit
- Give a method to ensure a permanent solution to the problem
- Find out who will do the removal of trash/treasure
If these steps cannot be maintained by the tenant, after the reasonable amount of time, you’re on your way to an eviction.
Always seek proper legal counsel if you’re considering evicting a hoarder.
What starts as a collection of stuff can turn into a serious headache for those around you. There could be anything from clutter to a dangerous amount of filth, or a smell that perforates walls, risk of bugs, or even mold that you won’t be able to find until the tenant is out. While they may not be showing much care to the four walls around them, you do. Try to show a little care towards your tenant and it can go a long way.
Have you dealt with hoarding on your property?