When your tenant starts to show signs of hoarding it can be a challenge to be understanding when safety, health, and property condition is compromised. Compulsive hoarding is considered a mental disorder, a disability under Fair Housing Laws. Because hoarding is a recognized mental disorder property owners must comply with the Fair Housing Act and provide “reasonable accommodations” which is defined as a change in rules, policies, practices, or services so that a person with a disability will have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common space. Landlords want to avoid evictions because of the associated costs of removing mountains of hoarded junk, in some cases upwards of tens of thousands. Simply throwing away the trash doesn’t help the hoarding tenant.
Creekbend Property Management recommends following this protocol when addressing this dilemma:
Steps landlords need to take from the start:
- Communicate to your tenant
First talk to your tenant about the safety hazards for them and surrounding neighbors. When addressing the hoarding, be sensitive by avoiding using words such as junk, trash, mess when describing their belongings. Provide your tenant with a list of clean-up services or extra trash bins. If the problem continues seek legal counsel.
- Document the conditions
Take photographs, write notes, and shoot videos of the property to provide evidence should it go to court. It’s crucial to document the violations of the lease agreement that states the tenant is to keep the property habitable.
Since hoarding is a disability, your tenant has the right to request a reasonable accommodation. If they don’t exercise this right, it may be advantageous from a legal standpoint for you to communicate to the tenant that you are willing to assist them and give them a cleaning timeline. A written agreement can provide the specific guidelines and requirements.
If your tenant makes significant progress in cleaning the home within a specified time frame, and is working with a mental health professional, a reasonable accommodation may be allowed to finish cleaning.
If your tenant’s hoarding persists after reasonable accommodations were provided, the next step and last resort is eviction. If you documented the property with photos, notes, etc.., consult with an attorney to proceed with the eviction. Harassing your tenant by removing their belongings, cutting off utilities is against the law.
The court will decide whether you, the landlord provided reasonable accommodation, and if the property condition is thoroughly documented it will give you the leverage in court.
- Get Help with Managing Problem Tenants
In order to avoid unnecessary headaches consider hiring a property manager to help screen potential problem tenants before you rent to them. If a problem arises with your tenant a reputable property manager will comply with fair housing laws and know how to navigate through the legal system.
Creekbend Property Management offers complete tenant screenings; background checks, criminal and credit, rental history, pet screening and eviction screening. We manage so you don’t have to!
Creekbend Property Management is located in Charleston, SC specializing in rental properties in downtown Charleston, James Island, Isle of Palm, Johns Island, Kiawah, Mt. Pleasant, Summerville, Goose Creek, Moncks Corner, North Charleston, and West Ashley. We are licensed and insured, providing leasing services, management services, maintenance, and most importantly; giving our property investors peace of mind!