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How do you handle a hoarder in your rental property?

A "hoarder" may make great television drama but having to deal with one in real life definitely isn't great for a landlord.

While it's important to remember that someone who hoards is suffering from a mental disorder and deserving of compassion, there are still practical problems that landlords have to address:

-- The property may be so full of objects, including old food, that it has become a breeding ground for insects and rodents.

-- Rodents and insects may seriously damage the walls, floor and electrical wiring inside a building that holds a hoarder's cache.

-- The hoard may be a fire hazard and obscure the exits.

-- The weight of the hoard can cause structural problems. Upper floors may start to bow inward under the hoard's weight, and foundations can be ruined due to mold and other issues that develop in the hidden recesses of the hoard.

-- Overflow from the hoard that lands in the yard could cause complaints from neighbors and the city.

It's important to remember that because compulsive hoarding is considered a mental disorder, hoarders are actually protected under the Fair Housing Act. That means that you can't simply evict a tenant with a hoarding problem without at least offering him or her appropriate accommodations that he or she can use to bring the issue under control.

That doesn't mean that you have to permit the hoarding, however. Instead, you simply have to take specific steps to try to resolve the issue:

-- Notify your tenant in writing of the problem.

-- Give a specific list of the issues that have to be addressed. For example, all outside clutter may have to be removed from the yard to meet city ordinances. In order to meet the local fire codes, a clear path may be necessary to all doorways from every room in the house.

-- Propose a reasonable amount of time for the tenant to meet the requirements spelled out in the notice. If possible, offer a series of staggered deadlines for each task.

Despite your best efforts, it isn't always possible to help a hoarder -- so completely document your attempts to accommodate him or her. That can help avoid an issue with Fair Housing later if you have to evict your tenant.

For more specific advice on situations like this and other tenant obligations, make an appointment with an attorney today.

Source: Wisegeek, "The Fair Housing Act," accessed May 10, 2017

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