Hoarders as Tenants

hoardingDo you have hoarders as tenants? Probably “yes,” because experts estimate 5% of the US population suffers from this condition. In fact, there’s even an official name for it–“Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with Hoarding Syndrome.”

Did alarm bells go off when you read that? You should have thought, “Whoa!!! Sounds like a disability, as in Fair Housing, and Americans With Disabilities Act.”

I could find no reported appellate decision, nor any agency decisions, holding that hoarding disorder is a disability under the Fair Housing laws. But, I have seen employment law cases making that decision, so Fair Housing is not far behind.  Be prepared. You will need to grant requests for  reasonable accommodation from hoarders. But, you don’t have to agree to things that will cause unreasonable financial or administrative burdens.

How do you manage a hoarding tenant? In some respects, they make great tenants. They tend to renew for longer periods of time, and they are generally not sensitive to rent increases.  On the other hand, their hoarding can cause problems with vermin, fire hazards, excessive weight on floors, obstruction of pathways and exits, and routine maintenance.  Hoarders generally will not allow anyone into their space. It’s not embarrassment, it’s a fear that people will see their treasures and plan to steal them.  Also, it’s virtually impossible to repair a water leak in a timely manner if the evidence is buried under piles of possessions.

If you have the right language in your lease (examples HERE) then when you see evidence of hoarding, or there is a refusal to allow access for inspections and maintenance, you can send out your Notice of Default and Opportunity to Cure.  After that, one of three things will happen. (1) You will evict them, at a great cost in attorneys fees, court costs, cleaning and repair, and downtime until a new tenant is found; or (2) They will improve temporarily, but you’ll be right back here in a few months; or (3) You can offer to cancel the old lease if they will sign a new one with very specific controls for the problems associated with hoarding, and increased rent or monthly fees to cover the administrative burden of monitoring compliance. I suggest Option #3 is probably the best one under the circumstances.

Besides increased rent or monthly fees, there is another opportunity for improving your revenues with a hoarding tenant. For single family homes with a back yard, you might want to buy a storage unit to place in the yard.  Charge a separate rent for the storage unit.  Before too long, it will pay for itself and turn into a cash cow.

Property managers–you need to have a discussion with your owners about how the increased rent, or the fees, will be split.  You will be the ones with all the extra work.