Heed 5 Tips To Handle Hoarders --- Without Running Afoul Of Fair Housing Laws

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Mistake: Don’t hastily evict tenants with hoarding behaviors

For many property owners and managers, hoarding is a worst nightmare. Compulsive hoarding can lead to a wide array of dangers and problems, such as unsanitary conditions, fire hazards, pest infestations, and property damage. But you can’t just evict a resident who is hoarding --- and if you do, you’ll be violating the Fair Housing Act.

Tip #1: Know How to Recognize Hoarding

Oftentimes, determining whether a tenant is simply messy versus having a hoarding disorder is not so easy. Hoarding involves behavior that goes beyond clutter, according to All Property Management (APM).

Compulsive hoarding, or hoarding disorder, is typically considered a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Hoarding would lead to blocking emergency exits or doorways, interfering with ventilation or sprinkler systems, attracting pests through improper food storage, or creating hazards for other residents.

According to a 1996 report defining hoarding’s core features (Frost and Hartl), compulsive hoarding involves:

  • The acquisition of, and failure to discard, a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value;
  • Living spaces that are sufficiently cluttered so as to preclude activities for which those spaces were designed; and
  • The presence of significant distress (to any concerned party) or impairment in functioning caused by the hoarding.

Tip #2: Understand the Fair Housing Protections

A person with hoarding disorder is considered to have a disability under state and federal fair-housing laws, according to Metro Housing Boston’s (MHB’s) Hoarding & Sanitation Fact Sheet (see www.metrohousingboston.org/what-we-do/fair-housing-civil-rights-help/hoarding-and-sanitation-fact-sheet/). And this means that your residents with hoarding disorder are part of the disability-based protected class under the Fair Housing Act, affording


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