Watch an episode of reality TV hoarding shows, and it may seem like some individuals are simply too stubborn to let things go. But the truth is hoarding is a serious mental disease that can cause those afflicted to become addicted to their possessions. The disease often requires psychological treatment in order for the person to part with possessions, many of which have no value.
As a property manager, you have no control over whether or not a potential hoarding tenant receives treatment. However, that doesn’t mean the health and well-being of your building’s occupants shouldn’t be priority number one.
The Hazards of Hoarding
It’s not often hoarders have homes filled in excess with valuable treasures. More often it’s piles of trash and garbage, and items the occupant neither needs nor uses. The latter might not seem so dangerous, but when the possessions pile up, the excess weight can cause undue stress on the structure of the dwelling. Those piles can also obstruct access to emergency exits, not too mention could literally bury a person alive should they topple over.
Dangers increase when the hoard is made up old food, biological waste from humans or animals, chemicals, expired prescriptions, or flammable items. In addition to putting your property and the tenants at risk, these conditions can violate a variety of state building, sanitation, and electricity codes leading to expensive fines.
How to Address the Mess Before It’s Made
Waiting for a hoard to reach hazardous levels is typically too late to save a property from needing extreme (and costly!) renovation. Take the necessary precautions to remain as proactive as possible.
Take tenant screening seriously:
While you may not be able to spot a hoarder before renting to a tenant, you may be able to avoid hoarding tenants by obtaining records of their prior property damage and housekeeping habits.
Consider your contracts:
While it may seem extreme, you may want to include a hoarding clause when drafting lease agreements. Be specific about tenant housekeeping expectations, protocols restricting piles in front of windows, doors, and passageways, and how to appropriately store and dispose of household chemicals, perishable items, and other potentially hazardous home possessions.
An increase in insects or vermin may be a sign of someone not properly disposing of trash or perishable items. Stay vigilant and prevent any pest problems from persisting.
Let your nose lead the way:
Hoarding often comes hand-in-hand with off-putting odors caused by rotting foot, animal urine or feces, and poor sanitary habits. Take action when you or tenants sniff out a potential problem in the making.
Schedule routine property maintenance:
It can be hard to see what’s happening behind closed doors, which limits your ability to respond to potential hoarding hazards. To help, schedule routine property maintenance, notifying tenants in advance that you will be entering the property. If an occupant refuses to let you in, this could be a warning sign that they’re hiding something.
Be legally correct:
You never want to invade a tenant’s privacy or break the rules of the lease agreement, even if you suspect a hoard could cause property damage (barring emergency situations, that is). Seek the advice of legal counsel to know how best to proceed and always keep documentation of complaints from nearby tenants and suspected property damages.
Who do I call for a hoarder cleanup? Call A&J Property Restoration DKI
We have dealt with many homes and commercial building spaces that have been damaged due to hoarding messes. It’s a very sensitive issue and needs to be handled with great care. A&J Property Restoration DKI’s trained technicians will take care of everything from coordinating disposal to rebuild, if necessary.
A&J Property Restoration is a full-service emergency and non-emergency damage restoration company serving all of south-central Wisconsin, Madison, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Wisconsin Dells, Sun Prairie, Columbus, Waunakee, Fort Atkinson, Watertown, Janesville, and WI surrounding areas.