While doing a regular walkthrough to check the condition of your rental property, you notice that the tenant has accumulated quite a bit of stuff. Maybe this is a situation where your tenant is a hoarder. What do you do? Hopefully, this is something that you’ll never have to deal with but as a landlord, it’s a possibility.

First, make sure it’s a case of hoarding and not just a messy tenant. How do you determine this? Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is the property unsafe?
  • Do their belongings block exits and would there be issues getting in or out in case of a fire?
  • Is it excessively dirty and possibly attracting pests?
  • Is it creating a hazardous situation for other residents if it’s in a condo building?
  • Are their belongings in the way of ventilation sources or sprinkler systems?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, there’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

Before you get upset at the tenant, you need to know that hoarding qualifies as a disability under federal and state anti-discrimination laws and is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Hoarders are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act, and you can’t just evict the tenants unless it’s necessary and a last resort.

  • Reach out to the tenant and find out if the situation is temporary. Maybe they’re storing their friends’ belongings while they move or bought some new furniture and are in the process of selling their old items. Remind them that the lease states they need to maintain the property in a certain condition. 
  • Can you help them? Maybe there’s additional storage space in the basement of the building that some items can be moved to. Or maybe you have a contact at a local storage facility that has some great deals for people getting new units that your tenant can take advantage of. Present some possible solutions to them to see if any would work.
  • Make sure you take pictures or video. If you end up having to evict them and they sue you, you don’t want it to be your description versus theirs. With modern technology, everyone has photos and videos and judges expect them. Take as many pictures as possible to show that it’s not just clutter and it is unsafe and unsanitary.

If you’ve tried to work with the tenant and your tenant refuses to cooperate and the situation doesn’t improve, then time to move on to an eviction. Sometimes the start of eviction is the catalyst that’s needed to spark a change in your tenant’s behavior so post an initial notice and see if they reach out before you move on to the next step. 

Threatening to evict a tenant usually doesn’t help and will often erode your relationship with them and they may even stay longer and fight you out of spite so threatening tenants is never a good idea. Stay calm and professional and use the legal system to get possession of the property back. 

Having a tenant who is a hoarder is unsafe and if you don’t evict them then you can have bigger issues down the road if something happens at the property because of their hoarding and there’s proof that you were aware of it, which you should be as their landlord. If you need a property management company that does regular property reviews, give us a call.