Landlords with hoarding tenants face several issues, including being able to determine whether a tenant is actually a hoarder, persuading the tenant to seek help and, in some cases, asking the tenant to move out. While disability rights laws can protect hoarders from immediate eviction, landlords should be prepared for the eviction process if the tenant refuses to address health and safety issues caused by excessive clutter. Landlords who evict also must address the problems of cleaning the unit as well as storing any items that the tenant has left behind.
Seek legal counsel. A lawyer can evaluate your situation and advise you on how to proceed. Many states restrict a landlord's entry into a rental property and may make evictions costly and time consuming. Understanding your options before taking action against the tenant can keep you from making mistakes that may make eviction more difficult.
Schedule an inspection in accordance with your state's laws. Landlord-tenant laws often restrict a landlord's access to a rental unit, so it's important to review the laws with your attorney. In many places, you'll need to notify your tenant in advance of the inspection. If your tenant refuses to allow you into the unit, you may have to get a court order forcing the tenant to give you access. If you suspect that the tenant is hoarding animals or that the tenant's hoarding represents a fire or safety hazard, you may be able to enlist the help of the fire marshal, a health department inspector or an animal control officer.
Offer accommodation or a "cure or quit" notice if you determine that your tenant is hoarding. Even though you may want the tenant to leave, both landlord-tenant and anti-discrimination laws may prevent you from immediately evicting the tenant. If the hoarding is a symptom of mental illness, you are required to provide "reasonable accommodation," usually in the form of a plan for the reduction of the clutter. In a situation where mental illness is not a factor, your state's laws may still require you to first issue a "cure or quit" notice, advising the tenant that the unit must be cleaned by a certain date or else you'll proceed with an eviction. If you plan to deliver a cure or quit notice, check your state's laws on the appropriate language to use in the notice and acceptable ways of serving the notice to your tenant.
Schedule a follow-up inspection. After reaching an agreement with the tenant or delivering the cure or quit notice, reschedule an inspection to ensure that the tenant has complied with your request to reduce the clutter and return the home to a safe, liveable state.
Start eviction proceedings if the tenant has not cleaned up the premises. This process varies by state, so talk to your attorney before serving the tenant with a notice of your intentions.
Be prepared for a major cleaning job if you evict your tenant or he moves out on his own. Research cleaning companies in your area to find out if they are able to clean hoarder homes.
Keep detailed records of your attempts at working with the tenant so that if your case does end up in court, you can show that you made a good faith effort to resolve the situation.
In some states, landlords must store belongings that a tenant leaves behind for a period of time after an eviction or lease termination. This can present significant challenges if the tenant is unable to remove her property before she moves out. Talk to your attorney about your options.
- International OCD Foundation: Hoarding and the Legal System
- San Francisco Bay Guardian Online: Evicting Hoarders
- Apartment Owners of America: What is Hoarding and How Should a Landlord Deal With It?
- Nutter: Addressing the Challenge of a Hoarding Tenant: An Advisory for Residential Landlords
- Nolo: Entry by the Landlord to Rental Property
- Nolo: Chart: Notice Requirements to Enter Rental Property, by State
- Oregon State Bar: Tenant Privacy and Landlord Access
- California Department of Consumer Affairs: Options for a Landlord - When a Tenant's Personal Property has Been Left in the Rental Unit: Legal Guide
- Nolo: How Evictions Work
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images