How to (Legally) Get a Hoarder Out of a Rental

2015-07-25

How to (Legally) Get a Hoarder Out of a Rental

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A room not even visible below the mess.Hoarders — as the popular TV show has labeled them — have a psychological disorder that causes them to insist on keeping things they have no need for, to excess. While the disorder itself is often more of a cause for empathy than anything else, being a hoarder’s landlord can be a very taxing experience. While the Fair Housing Act keeps you from discriminating against a hoarder — yes, even if you’re aware of the problem up front — there are definitely several solid legal reasons you can get rid of someone that is compulsively collecting fairly quickly.

 

Breach of Lease

Even if a hoarder pays on time every month, the conditions under which they live very often will breach the lease agreement for any of several reasons:

  • Damage to the Property: Probably the rarest of these reasons, but nevertheless something to keep an eye out for. Clutter falling onto and breaking windows; piles bowing or cracking steps, decks, or counters; enormous clothing collections ruining closet bars, shelves, or built-in dressers — there are many ways that ‘too much stuff’ can necessitate excessive repair costs.
  • Blocking Emergency Exits: Conversely, this is probably the easiest way to evict a hoarder. Check every bedroom — even if it’s not being used — and if there’s too much stuff for a reasonable person to climb out the window in case of a fire, you have a legitimate reason to claim breach-of-lease.
  • Attracting Pests: Most modern lease agreements have some form of pest clause; if you can demonstrate that the hoarder’s mess is creating a situation that is attracting bugs, rodents, or other pests, you have a solid case for eviction.
  • Creating a Fire Hazard: Some hoarders insist on keeping things like newspapers and magazines — innocent enough at first, but when you get enough paper in one place and the pulp dust becomes palpable in the air, you have a definite fire hazard, which under most lease agreements is all the reason you need.
  • Unsanitary Conditions: If the hoarder’s stuff has spread to the point that they no longer have a functional space in which to cook, a functional shower or bathtub, or (God forbid) a functional toilet or sink, they are definitely in breach of the lease.

 

Follow the Process

For all of that, however, there’s still — like always — a process that must be followed in order to finally move the tenant out. If you don’t follow this process, you might get stuck with a hoarder by court order, and believe me, you don’t want that. So heed these steps carefully:

  • Document the Conditions by taking pictures, video, and handwritten notes. Be certain that you get the exact circumstances that show the breach-of-lease, but don’t stop there — get a solid overview as well.
  • Give the Tenant Notice that they have a reasonable timeframe (usually set by state law, but 30 days is acceptable almost everywhere) to rectify their situation. If you want to be on the cautious side, give them 90 days, but set sub-goals for each 30-day mark.)
  • Contact Your Attorney and tell them about what’s going on. Give them copies of your evidence, and inform them of the timeline set by your notice. Make sure they’re going to be available to move on this as soon after the 30 days are up as possible.
  • Assuming Noncompliance, consult with your attorney again when the hoarder has shown that they’re unwilling or unable to clean up, and commence the eviction proceeding.

The purpose of the 90-day option is to show a judge that you weren’t being unreasonable — many hoarders’ messes are significant enough that they would be reasonable unable to clean up while holding down a full-time job within a single month. Giving them a longer timeframe with reasonable ‘stepping stone’ goals allows you to appear more reasonable, and the vast majority of hoarders won’t get anywhere near even the first ‘stepping stone,’ making them appear more unreasonable in front of a judge.

 

Hoarders aren’t bad people — but they’re horrible tenants, and you shouldn’t feel terribly badly about getting them out. You, the owner, and the building will be happier that you did.

7 thoughts on “How to (Legally) Get a Hoarder Out of a Rental

  1. Wat about a landlord who is hoarding?..renting out the property with the yard looking like the las vegas dump?..wat can be done about that? Who do I call becuz hes procrastinating and I dont like it?

  2. Tenant is hoarding vehicles as well as indoor hoarding. Indoor not yet at fire hazard level though there is visible rodent activity. Tenant is now paying partial rent only — tenant claims “broke” (and that is probably because tenant just purchased and brought more vehicles here, currently there are 11 some running some not, some downright wrecking yard prospects). In my state, Oregon, renters behind on rent payments cannot be evicted under the Oregon Governor’s ongoing executive order. The lease restricts tenant to two personal vehicles, period. Talked with lawyer, who wanted a $5k retainer “just to get started this will be a tough one” and that lawyer anticipated total legal fees to top 10k, and who told me the court probably would not grant an eviction order anyway. Lawyer said that I would be responsible for storing, insuring, protecting, arranging selling and then paying my tenant for those vehicles what was received over and above rent due!!! I just learned that the tenant owns acreage/residence property in another state which also is full of vehicles and “stuff” including a new outbuilding put up just to keep more “stuff” in. Tenant’s family in yet another state tell me he has hoarded stuff at their property too and they have been unsuccessful at getting that resolved even with court proceedings, not sure of details, they got a court order which was ignored. I am at wit’s end with this one. I’m the owner of just two small residential rentals, yes I was extremely careful about new tenants; my other tenant is absolutely wonderful I hope I have that tenant forever. What in the world can I do about the hoarder??? Do I just have to let this go on? Sell the property out from under the tenant and if I can find a buyer it will become the buyer’s problem to solve? This property WAS a good investment and I’m getting very close to the age where I need to be very careful about the $$ situation.

    1. You should ask around for an attorney that specializes in evictions!

      Go to a local real estate investors club meeting, check Meetup.com, or go to local court and check the filed eviction cases and look for attorneys that have 5+ cases.

      1. I have already spoken with an attorney who specializes in evictions. I was told it would cost between 10k and 15k the 5k difference being the deposit “just to get started.” And that attorney told me there was a strong possibility the court would still allow the offending tenant to remain on the property because everyone is so leery of running afoul of the hoarder protection laws. I am not a property management company just someone with a couple of small rentals and while I understand your advice to get an attorney is the usual advice it simply is beyond my ability to pay for especially with an uncertain outcome. As far as gatherings like you suggest, those are still restricted in my state. Thank you for replying but I was hoping for other strategies than being told to hire a lawyer. Like maybe what other landlords have done about hoarders.

  3. If you are near the date of lease renewal, or declining to renew, can the landlord just choose to not renew the lease? If eviction still has to happen, is not renewing the lease of any benefit?

    1. Either party of the lease can choose to not renew.

      If the tenant stays after the end of the lease, they are considered a Holdover Tenant, and most leases contain a Holdover Clause that significantly increases the rent during the Holdover period.

      A Holdover tenant may need to be evicted if they will not vacate the premises.

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