How to Deal with Hoarding at Your Apartment Property

How to Deal with Hoarding at Your Apartment Property

 

We’ve all known hoarders but probably just considered them pack rats of some form or another. A cluttered two-car garage that can’t hold one car, let alone a pair, isn’t that unusual, but it’s a basic form of hoarding if you ask the experts.

I guess I’m a hoarder in my own way. My wife considers me a pack rat because I won’t toss magazines: “But those are for reference,” I say. And those boxes of baseball cards are going to be valuable again one day. But we keep a neat house and we can get two cars in the garage with plenty of elbow room.

Fact is, though, that there is an epidemic of hoarders who can not only maneuver their garages but also the insides of their homes, right down to hallways. I won’t cite gruesome details of the unhealthiness that goes along with that, but suffice to say it’s real.

At a National Apartment Association Education Conference & Exposition held in Boston, some attorneys specializing in hoarding outlined the issue’s seriousness. Up to five percent of all Americans are hoarders – 15 million elderly adults have the disorder. That’s right, disorder.

Compare that to the 4.5 million who suffer from Alzeimer’s or dementia and you gain some perspective. And conditions are ripe for further growth with baby boomers entering their Golden years.

For property owners, a hoarder can be bad news. Hoarding has health and safety issues and Fair Housing complaints and eviction can create blockages. A hoarder can fly under the radar for years, even be a property’s best resident with prompt bill pay and long tenure, but eventually they are ratted out by a strong odor resulting from unsanitary conditions or insect problems.

Apartments can become so cluttered – from floor to ceiling – that toilets, bathtubs and showers are inaccessible, forcing the hoarder to use those facilities in the clubhouse, gym, and pool.

A hoarder becomes a property owner’s problem when the behavior affects the health and safety of the resident, other residents and property, said representatives from Kimball, Tirey & St. John, LLP. If not handled properly, it can trigger a Fair Housing complaint and require significant cost to clean up.

And unlike on “Buried Alive,” the issue won’t get resolved in an hour.

If you have a hoarder, the folks at Kimball, Tirey & St. John, LLP suggest creating a plan to tackle the issues. And document, document, document.

Because a hoarder is very possessive, they say it’s best to take a sugar, not salt approach. Don’t threaten an eviction and avoid using words like “junk”, “trash” and “mess” when approaching the resident. Establish trust and gain cooperation; be compassionate.

“Many times our clients tell us that their hoarding tenant is a long term tenant, pays rent on time, doesn’t disturb the neighbors, is very nice, etc., so the goal of helping the tenant retain their tenancy often is not hard to sell to the client,” says attorney Craig McMahon.

Four proactive steps to dealing with a hoarder (as suggested by Kimball, Tirey & St. John, LLP):

1.Plan a home visit

Visit the resident and take notes. Don’t be confrontational and don’t refer to the visit as an inspection. Try to stress that you’re not there to tell the resident what to do with their belongings but point out health and safety issues.

2.Assess with the resident

Identify the most dangerous or relevant issues and try to get a buy-in with the resident to tackle those first. Discuss strategies to reduce the potential for harm to the resident and others, and assure that the property is acting in the best interests of everybody. Allow sufficient time for the requests to be accomplished.

3.Create a written agreement

Establish a voluntary written agreement that includes a plan of action for the resident, with measurable achievements, support, and a timeline. The goal is to create a slow, steady reduction to meet health and safety goals. Consider providing a dumpster or unmarked van for disposal.

If the resident won’t sign the agreement, send a follow-up letter stating what was agreed to and ask that it be sent back with an acknowledgement.

4.Post-compliance monitoring

Conduct brief, friendly check-ins to ensure compliance. Monitoring is much more cost effective than ultimately having to force an eviction and clean up the apartment. Again, document, and include steps for non-compliance. Stay focused on the goals and don’t become emotional. Recognize that interaction will stimulate progress.

Also, be sensitive to a resident’s breaking point throughout the process and recognize when to suggest a “time out” to not jeopardize progress.

As always, with any issue sensitive to residents, seek professional or legal advice.

 


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

17 responses to “How to Deal with Hoarding at Your Apartment Property”

  1. How to Deal with Hoarding at Your Apartment Property http://t.co/Upxpp4dz #multifamily #propertymanagement #hoarding

  2. How to Deal with Hoarding at Your Apartment Property http://t.co/xjMdN2qF #multifamily #fairhousing #hoarding #propertymanagement

  3. How to Deal with Hoarding at Your Apartment Property http://t.co/sPiLUftj

  4. PMI: How to Deal with Hoarding at Your Apartment Property – Hoarders are becoming more common and can create issues … http://t.co/2Umq3jq8

  5. Great to see you recommending a compassionate approach to this much misunderstood condition.

    I help people all over the world declutter and create homes they love (I provide a free masterclass at http://www.mygreenandtidylife.co.uk) and I’m not sure that there is an ‘epidemic’ of hoarding. There’s no evidence that hoarding is becoming more common. It’s more likely that awareness is growing.

  6. […] “How to Deal with Hoarding at Your Apartment Property.” Practical steps to managing hoarders at your properties, from Tim Blackwell. […]

  7. #multifamily “How to Deal with Hoarding at Your Apartment Property” http://t.co/uMDbtGU4

  8. How to Deal with Hoarding at Your Apartment Property http://t.co/YUuLDwvK

  9. How to Deal with Hoarding at Your Rental Property http://t.co/b8DdAZCC

  10. […] We’ve all known hoarders but probably just considered them pack rats of some form or another. A cluttered two-car garage that can’t hold one car, let alone a pair, isn’t that unusual, but it’s a basic form of hoarding if you ask the experts…Read More […]

  11. How to Deal with Hoarding at Your Apartment Property http://t.co/p0cVXJk7

  12. @IREM_info Thx for all the useful info! The post on #hoarding http://t.co/hMKQlrj6 was a must not miss!

  13. Why #Gossip is Best Left to TMZ http://t.co/hMKQlrj6 Thx to @donnahickey for the info!

  14. Andrew says:

    My roommate threatening me because I want to keep clean the house, the house was a mess very nasty, you cannot live in that conditions. And he became crazy and threatening me, now I am scared with this guy. Should I notice the police? It is to hard to deal with hoarder. What should I do?

  15. […] with the City of Dallas, hosted a well-attended training session for member properties on how to handle hoarding at apartment properties. The event drew the attention of local media, which chronicled a Dallas resident who was too […]

  16. […] Property management teams should take a proactive but cautious approach when working with a resident who hoards, Dover says. Because the condition is considered a mental disability, landlords should generally try to accommodate first. That means closely working with the hoarder to try to find a way to retain residency. She recommends establishing mutual goals to remedy the situation. […]

  17. […] Property management teams should take a proactive but cautious approach when working with a resident who hoards,Dover says. Because the condition is considered a mental disability, landlords should generally try to accommodate first. That means closely working with the hoarder to try to find a way to retain residency. She recommends establishing mutual goals to remedy the situation. […]

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