Maintaining a rental is not only the duty of the landlord, but it also the responsibility of the tenant. A messy house, no matter how well-maintained, will never look immaculate. There are times when tenants cannot see the difference between clutter and hoarding, and most of the time, the landlord must bear the consequences. There are many inherent concerns as well as hazards of hoarding that are most glossed over by giving it the name of clutter. As a landlord, if you are experiencing the same issues with your tenant, you will need to address the situation before it gets out of hand. A hoarder is different than a sentimental collector or a clutter bug; however, hoarding includes both when taken to the extreme. Here is the difference between clutter and hoarding:
For a hoarder, letting go of things and personal stuff is not easy. Even if their belongings are broken and cannot be used, they still have a hard time throwing them away. Umpteenth boxes stacked upon each other is not exactly hoarding, but it can be an indication of the start of hoarding. So, how can you know for sure that the collector is a hoarder? Here are a few telltale signs of hoarding:
Indications of Hoarding:
Having even one of these signs can be a cause of concern. If your tenant or your rental possesses any of these, you should start to keep a vigilant eye on them and work on an action plan to help them out.
- Overwhelming and persistent odor
- Numerous pets, accumulated pet litter and stains as well as pet accessories
- Hard to walk rooms packed with boxes, newspaper, and other clutter
- Mold and mildew
- Complains from the neighbor about pests, odor, and clutter outside the house
- Reluctance to let the landlord get in the house or any other part of the house like the attic or garage
- Uncleaned and cluttered vehicle
- Unwillingness to clean or unclutter the house
All the above signs are sure signs of hoarding; these signs cannot be mistaken for a cluttered or messy home. To eliminate any confusion, here are the signs of a messy and disorganized house.
Indication of Clutter and Mess:
Although the signs of clutter and mess are different than hoarding, the extreme of both can be the start of hoarding. Cluttering, disorganization as well as a general mess is more due to lack of time to clean up. Excess of work, a couple or more kids, as well as stress can be a cause of clutter and mess. The following signs can be an indication of clutter and mess.
- Slight odor, like pet litter or kids’ pee
- Items of all kinds are stacked on tables and chairs like toys, clothes, etc.
- Pending unwashed laundry
- Dirty dishes in the skin piling high
- Lack of dusting, sweeping, and mopping
- Tenant’s apologetic behavior
- Efforts to make amends time and again
- Follow up, letting the landlord know about the cleaning update
Action plan in Case of Hoarding:
Here is what a landlord should do in case he suspects that his tenant is a hoarder.
We have already discussed the signs of hoarding; if you see any of these signs, you should approach your tenant with caution. There is no need, to begin with, for harsh words of actions; what your tenant needs is a little empathy. We understand that you need to think about your investment, so you need to talk to your tenant, empathize, and get to the root of what is causing this.
Hoarding is a serious condition that comes under mental health issues. A disorganized person will make amends when though time is over, whereas a hoarder may not even recognize there is a problem unless he has been told. A hoarder will always need help to get by and see his issues. As a landlord, you will need to have some patience when dealing with a hoarder.
Fair Housing Act:
Hoarding is considered a mental disorder; hence, as a landlord, you can’t just evict the tenant and be done with it; you will need to approach this situation with full caution. Under the fair housing, act hoarding is covered under mental disorders; hence you will need to take the collaborative approach.
Check and Amend Your Lease:
As a landlord, your best weapon is your lease agreement; you need to make sure it has the cleanliness clause. However, the tenant is also protected by the lease; you can’t add anything that is damaging to the tenant. So, make sure you are following all state guidelines when amending the lease. Your lease agreement should include clauses regarding general cleaning, trash collection as well as pet waste cleaning. A well-defined lease agreement will save you from a lot of hassle in the future.
You know you are dealing with a hoarder; however, you will need to collect evidence as well as documents of your efforts to change the situation. The following documents will help you in case of an eviction.
- Violation notice
- Clear pictures of a home inspection
- A detailed report of home inspection from an unbiased source
- Your communication with the tenant to amend the situation
- All your efforts to help the tenant may include assistance material regarding yard cleanup, junk removal, free dumpsters, etc.
Once you have tried everything other than eviction, it is time to get outside support. Your tenant may not take this easily, but this is one step you will need to take; this is how you will be able to tell the authorities that you did try your best to amend the situation. Contact departments like the health and fire department as well as adult protective services to help you out and record your efforts.
Hoarding is not only unsafe for the property but also the people living in the property or around it. Hoarding is a huge health and safety hazard, and as a landlord, it is your duty to keep an eye on your tenants and lookout for any signs of hoarding.