Hoarding and the problem tenant

Hoarding, or collecting piles and piles of unused (and often useless) items, is an aspect of a serious type of obsessive-compulsive disorder. While the last thing you want to get into is a lawsuit over disability discrimination against a tenant, the reality is that a hoarder can put your entire property at risk.

Learn more about what to do when you have a tenant renting from you and the hoard has become a problem.

1. Understand that hoarding is a disorder.

Hoarding often has its roots in deep emotional trauma. Your tenant may have an actual disability that is protected under the Fair Housing Act, so you need to tread carefully when you handle the issue. Even an unfounded lawsuit over the issue could economically damage you -- and a valid complaint about a violation would subject you to serious penalties.

2. Review the terms of the lease and provide notice of violations.

Your lease is probably your best tool in this situation. Review the terms of the lease and compare the situation at hand with whatever terms for eviction you have. For example:

  • The sheer weight of a hoard can cause damage to the property's floors, walls, stairs, windows and door frames. If damage to the property breaches your lease with the tenant, that might be a way out of your situation.

  • Some hoarders won't throw anything away -- even rotted food and waste products. The accumulation of filth may violate a lease that requires a tenant to maintain a reasonably clean home or apartment.

  • If the hoard is blocking the entrance and exits of a place, that could put tenants in serious danger if there's an emergency. That may also be a violation of your tenant's lease.

Give your tenant appropriate notice and time to make corrections and be sure to document your efforts to get the tenant to comply.

3. If your efforts fail, take legal action.

If your tenant won't comply with the lease and you've done everything possible to help, you can move forward with an eviction. If there's a dispute over the lease's terms, make sure that you talk to an experienced real estate attorney before you act.

The key to remember is that you can't discriminate against a person with a disability. Make sure that you treat all your tenants equally and you're on a solid legal footing before you try to evict.