Landlords have an overwhelming number of responsibilities for taking care of their properties. The last thing any landlord wants to deal with is a hoarder. Unfortunately, hoarders aren’t just fiction created for daytime television shows – they’re real, and they’re everywhere.
If your tenant is a hoarder, you need to act fast before they permanently damage your property or pose a safety threat to others. However, you can’t evict someone just for being a hoarder.
Here’s what you need to know about hoarders and how you can deal with the situation legally.
Hoarding is a recognized mental disorder
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) recognizes hoarding as a mental disorder. This affords hoarders certain rights under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
The ADA requires landlords to provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. For example, a disabled tenant is legally allowed to install grab bars in the shower and bathroom to assist with mobility. While there are no specific accommodations landlords must make for hoarders, they’re still entitled to request an accommodation, and the landlord is obligated to provide an accommodation.
Accommodations aren’t just physical improvements to a unit. They also include accommodations for policies, rules, practices, and services. Just as someone can request access to the laundry room on days when their caregiver is present, hoarders can request a landlord to rescind a 3-day notice to vacate to get more time to comply with the landlord’s requests.
If a hoarder is served an eviction notice, they can legally request accommodations from the landlord to perform the duties that would allow them to stay on the property. For example, they might request that their landlord give them 30 days to clean the property enough to avoid eviction. If the hoarding situation is creating a nuisance, a fire hazard, or a health hazard, the tenant would have 30 days to remedy the issue.
Hoarders aren’t usually bad tenants
If you find out a tenant has been hoarding items or trash in your rental property, it doesn’t mean you were a bad judge of character. Hoarders often pay rent on time and in full and are pleasant to do business with.
Most hoarders aren’t bad tenants. In fact, it’s often hard to identify a hoarder from the outside. Many live normal lives and their state of affairs at home isn’t reflected in their outward appearance. They’re often well-dressed, professional, and can fool their entire family.
You have only a few options to legally evict a hoarder
The longer a hoarder stays in your rental unit, the more damage you’ll have. However, you can evict a hoarder only under a limited number of circumstances.
- When hoarded items make the unit unsanitary. As a landlord, it’s your duty to provide a habitable living space for your tenants. Your tenants are also required to keep their home clean and sanitary. If a tenant is hoarding trash, animals, garbage, or rotten food, that makes it impossible for both you and your tenant to keep the property clean and sanitary.
- When hoarded items create a hazard for other tenants. If you have other tenants on the property, you can evict a hoarder if their behavior creates a problem for others. For example, if they block emergency exits, ventilation, or sprinklers.
- When hoarded items create unsanitary conditions for other tenants. If a hoarder is collecting trash that attracts rodents, any other tenants in the general vicinity will likely be affected by the infestation. This is a strong reason to evict a hoarder.
If you choose to serve an eviction notice to a hoarder, be careful with every move you make. Even though they might be piling trash up to the ceiling, you could still lose your case if you do or say anything that could be considered discrimination.
Be prepared to clean and renovate
You’ll need to do some serious cleaning and remodeling after a hoarder vacates the premises. Be prepared to spend between $5,000 and $15,000 to clean and renovate to return the property to a habitable state.
If your former tenant had pets, you might need to replace the carpets and carpet pads. You can’t get cat or dog urine out of carpet pads. Some people can smell animal urine in a carpet even after a deep cleaning. It’s best to just replace everything and start fresh.
Most hoarders won’t allow anyone inside their home even to make repairs. If your former tenant didn’t take care of the inside of the building, you’ll probably find damaged walls, water damage, and possibly soft or sunken areas in the floor.
You’ll be one of the lucky landlords if your hoarder tenant decides to move out. Some hoarders never vacate and end up living in their clutter until they die – literally.
Sometimes hoarders die in their homes
It sounds like a nightmare situation, but it’s an unfortunate reality. Hoarders sometimes die in their homes surrounded by so much junk that it takes rescue crews considerable time to find the body.
One hoarder was reported to authorities as possibly being dead in his home when neighbors didn’t see him for a while. Technicalities caused the search to be delayed, and after 383 days, the man was found dead in his home.
Another woman, whom nobody suspected was a hoarder, was found dead in her home by her cousin. Her body had been eaten by her Rottweiler and rats. When her cousin first saw her body slumped over the kitchen table, she thought it was a Halloween decoration.
The list of similar stories is a mile long.
If a hoarder dies in your rental property it’s going to cost even more to clean everything. Depending on how long it takes for someone to realize they’ve died in the house, you could end up having to remove some pretty noxious smells. Sometimes those odors don’t go away entirely.
Do you need help handling a hoarder eviction? We can help
Pursuing an eviction against a hoarder isn’t easy. If you’ve never gone through the eviction process at all, it’s even harder.
To properly evict a hoarder in Austin, Texas, you need a property management company on your side. At Green Residential, we have extensive experience helping landlords manage evictions legally and avoid making costly mistakes.
If you’re dealing with a hoarder and don’t know what to do, contact us to learn more about protecting the integrity of your property.