A tenant that hoards can be a real problem for landlords. The piles of useless items can put a tremendous weight on upper floors of a rental, make it impossible to service plumbing and electrical problems and hide all manner of vermin.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to simply evict a tenant for hoarding. Hoarding has been officially recognized as a disabling condition since 2013, when it entered the diagnostic manual of mental disorders used by psychiatrists. That means that hoarders have certain rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ask for reasonable accommodations for their problem.
If you’re a landlord, you may not consider any of this “reasonable,” but here is what you need to consider:
1. If you want to evict a hoarder, you need to document violations.
If you want to evict a hoarder, you need to justify your decision based on the problems the hoard creates — not its mere existence.
For example, you may note that the hoard is blocking a safe egress for the occupants of the rental in a fire or other emergency. You can also note structural damage, problems with roaches or mice due to the hoard and similar issues. Document the violations and give the tenant the appropriate amount of time to correct the issues before you reinspect.
2. If the tenant request accommodation for his or her hoarding, respond with care.
If you’ve started the steps of an eviction because of a hoard, don’t be surprised if you receive a written request for reasonable accommodation. Respond to it like you would any other disability accommodation under the ADA — carefully.
Look at the requested accommodations to see if they are, in fact, reasonable. For example, a tenant can’t ask you to simply overlook the hoard because it is part of his or her disorder when it’s creating substantial health and safety issues for that tenant and possibly others. He or she can, however, ask for more time to get a massive hoard under control.
Establish a reasonable timetable of expected changes and document the condition of the hoard as time passes. Photos, in addition to your written notes, are best. If progress isn’t being made, you can proceed with the eviction.
If you’re unsure of your obligations toward a hoarding tenant seeking accommodations, consider talking to a real estate attorney who handles landlord/tenant disputes.
Source: advancingsmartly.org, “Hoarding: Dealing with the Legal Issues,” Rose Scheid, accessed March 15, 2018