Is Your Resident a Hoarder?

The March issue of Units Magazine has a shocking expose—well, if you’re in property management, anyway. Even the most seemingly-normal tenants can be hoarders, people who cannot throw anything away and whose apartments fill with years’ worth of clutter and trash.

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There are of course several problems with this scenario. One is that hoarding can be a form of mental illness or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and may indicate a need for help. The other, from a management perspective, is that residents must keep their apartments safe and sanitary. Pests can be a huge problem, not just for the hoarding residents but for the units around theirs’, and a stuffed apartment can be a serious fire hazard for someone attempting to escape.

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How will you find a hoarder out? The most common way seems to be from technicians who enter an apartment to perform installations or maintenance. If you want to keep an eye out, try scheduling regular apartment inspections. Most hoarders do not wish to be found out, and so will be discreet about the situation. There are warning signs, however: refusing or repeatedly rescheduling maintenance appointments, foul smells or sudden pest infestations, or regularly retrieving things from the dumpster or street.

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If you find out that one of your tenants is hoarding, confront the situation immediately. The Units article suggests focusing on the safety and health reasons for cleaning out an apartment, and avoid making accusing statements or even using terms like “hoarder.” Because hoarding is increasingly recognized as a manifestation of mental distress, it can be treated as a disability. Consider giving your resident extra time to clear things out—say, 45 days rather than 15—and make it clear which parts of the lease are being violated and therefore qualify for termination if the situation is not addressed. Be specific in what you require for a unit to meet safe and sanitary conditions. And be sensitive: see if it’s possible for the resident to get help from friends, family, or even a therapist. It’s better for everyone involved if the behavior doesn’t continue.

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