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Email: martin@martinfeinberg.com

Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing with Hoarding as a Property Manager

Image is an illustration of a woman holding a bucket full of cleaning supplies.There are many different issues that property owners will be forced to deal with, either by themselves or through a property management company, as they work with tenants.  Some are more easily dealt with than others, however, and hoarding tends to be on the more difficult side of things.

According to the Mayo Clinic “hoarding disorder is a persistent difficultly discarding or parting with possessions because of perceived need to save them.  A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items.  Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs. “

Hoarding is a serious problem for rental property owners and for property managers, and is not easily managed.  Hoarding can occur for many different reasons, from depression, fear, or dementia to brain injuries, trauma, or genetics.  There are hundreds of different reasons that a tenant might hoard, but managing the problem is usually similar no matter the cause.

Regardless of why someone hoards, the problems caused by hoarding are too serious to ignore. Hoarding is a health and safety issue. It can lead to pest infestations, fire safety issues, blocked egress, mold, and even weakness in the weight and load bearing abilities of a rental property.

Though hoarding is usually difficult to resolve, there are some basic do’s and don’ts that will make the issue easier to cope with, both for the property manager and the hoarder.

Hoarding Clean Up Do’s

  • For safety reasons, hoarding cannot be overlooked, but that does not mean that compassion cannot also be extended during the cleanup process.  One of the best ways to handle hoarding issues is to first emotionally connect with the tenant.
  • Continue to talk with the tenant about the hoarding situation and remind them that it’s not going to go away on its own.
  • Talk about safety, as most hoarders are concerned with safety as well.
  • Agree with the hoarder that the items are important.
  • Discuss with the hoarder about keeping everything confidential.
  • Ask tenants why they are keeping items, and listen as they explain their thinking.  It will help you understand why they hoard.
  • Promote donation. Everyone likes to help the needy.
  • Help the tenant understand that they way they live is not normal (but be compassionate and do not judge).
  • Seek help from family and professionals, especially therapists that specialize in hoarding. There are also professional services that will help clean up a property.
  • Enlist the help of adult protective services, the health department, and the local police and/or fire departments.  This is especially essential if it becomes necessary to evict a tenant for hoarding because documentation will be needed.
  • Give the tenant a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem.

Hoarding Clean up Don’ts

  • Don’t get impatient. Cleaning up will take time.
  • Don’t ever make fun of the hoarder.
  • Don’t say, “let’s get rid of all this stuff.”  Hoarders emotionally attached to their items and that needs to be acknowledged if the hoarder is to improve.
  • Don’t get angry.
  • Don’t touch the hoarder’s items without permission.
  • Don’t treat the hoarder like a child (many hoarders are very intelligent) or a criminal, even if you must get the authorities involved.
  • Don’t give the hoarder a list of tasks to accomplish all at once.  Focus on one task at a time.
  • Don’t ask someone why he or she hoards.

Image is an illustration of a clean and orderly living room.Professional property managers such as Martin Feinberg understand that there are steps that must be taken in dealing with any problem, and hoarding is no different.  When hoarding is first discovered, the rental owner or property manager must remember to document everything, provide opportunities to cleanup through the use of written infractions and reasonable deadlines, utilize social services and local authorities, and finally get third party documentation should eviction become necessary.

If hoarding becomes a problem for a tenant, try not to stress.  There are worse things to deal with as a property manager or property owner; try to keep things in perspective.  Helping to create a livable condition, and periodic monitoring of the situation, will make life happier for both you and the tenant, providing a win-win for everyone.