Do you have that one tenant who, when you visit their unit, seems to be using their rental unit as a storage unit? Everywhere you look, they have stuff stacked to the ceiling in every room, stuffed in closets and drawers until they overflow on the floor. Has the mess become so bad, all you want to do is pull in with a huge dumpster in tow and start clearing it out?
Sadly, you can’t do this; you have to find a better way to deal with a hoarder. Keep in mind the line between a slob and a hoarder is very narrow and it’s easy to mistake one for the other. However, this doesn’t mean you should just ignore the problem in the hopes it will go away, it won’t. In fact, it can attract several different types of pest, including rodents, affect the overall cleanliness of the property and any neighbors (such as in a multifamily unit), and put your tenant, your maintenance staff, and ultimately you at risk of injury. Here are four tips to help you deal with your first hoarder (and any subsequent ones).
Hoarding is a Mental Disorder
To you (and many others) hoarding is nothing short of a nuisance, one that is sure to create more work for you. To the American Psychiatric Association, hoarding is a form of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and a recognized disability. This means that hoarders are protected under numerous federal and state laws regarding discrimination. You must also make reasonable considerations for a hoarder in much the same way you would for someone in a wheelchair.
Know Your Responsibilities
As a property manager, you must make sure that each of the properties you are in charge of is kept in a clean and habitable condition. In most states, you must abide by this “warranty of habitability” or risk being taken to court by your tenants. At the same time, most states also require tenants do their part to keep the rental unit they are living in are kept “clean & sanitary.” When someone is a hoarder, the accumulated “stuff” can block access to doors, create a health risk, and worse. When the hoarding reaches a point at which one or both of you cannot carry out your responsibility, you may have to take action to remove the clutter or evict the tenant.
Reach Out to Your Tenant
One of the first steps you must to take if you suspect one of your tenants has begun to hoard is to reach out to them as soon as you can. The earlier you can remind them of their obligations outlined in the lease (keeping their home clean and clutter free), the better. This also lets you determine the reason for the clutter. It could be they are packing to move or storing things for a member of their family or a good friend.
It is your job as a property manager to make sure all of your tenants understand the lease they signed. Be sure you keep a record of conversations, notices, and any other communication you have with the tenant, in case you should have to go to the courts for an eviction order.