If you own an investment property in the D.C. area, you may have heard of, been concerned about, or dealt with a hoarding renter directly. When it comes to the landlord-tenant relationship, these situations can quickly seem to spiral out of control and kill your hopes for a great experience with your D.C. rentals.
As a residential property owner, you may even be kicking yourself, thinking that if you could have just made a more thorough effort with your tenant screening process, you'd never have to experience this dilemma of rental property ownership.
There are sensationalist television shows that portray hoarding in a dramatic light, but in reality, it can be a debilitating and hard-to-control condition, sometimes resulting in the need for extra care and special accommodations from property owners.
So-called 'hoarders' are a protected disability class and are generally known as renters who feel connected to their possessions to the point of difficulty. As a professional Washington D.C. property management company, we have unfortunately seen this behavior in action, even if it is thankfully rare.
Despite the consequences of hoarding on the cleanliness and safety of single-family and multi-family housing, property owners often have difficulty knowing how to navigate the legal landscape of addressing hoarding behaviors. Those affected are protected under the Fair Housing Act and, by extension, the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Property owners and property managers have to balance the needs of their renters with the potential damage to the property. However, the situation is not completely without hope. Learning what signs to look out for and what your next actionable steps are can help protect your rental property.
Please note: This post is not a substitute for proper legal counsel and contains current information at the time of its publishing. When in doubt, it's best to reach out to the professionals at EJF Real Estate Services or obtain guidance from a skilled attorney.
Hoarding or Not, Understand the Consequences of Clutter
Not every resident who collects items is necessarily exhibiting signs of hoarding. It is best to begin your investigation based on the consequences of clutter for the property and solve issues that are clear lease violations first:
- If your lease limits the number of animals that can be kept in the property, a person with too many animals may need to re-home some of them, preventing odors and damage.
- If emergency exits become inaccessible due to clutter, give the residents notice that this violates the lease and puts their safety at risk.
- If you observe food-related clutter or a rodent/bug problem is mentioned or discovered, set out guidance for both eliminating the current problem and preventing open food that could attract further pests.
Some of these issues are easily spotted when you're visiting your property to perform preventative maintenance or carry out a routine inspection. If you're working with a professional property management group, they're just as (if not more) likely to spot the beginnings of these problems and take action on your behalf.
Another advantage of working with property management in Washington D.C. for your rowhomes, condos, or detached dwellings is that they can help you address these situations from the start with an airtight lease agreement.
Clear Rules Help Curb the Likelihood of Hoarding
Our team works directly with renters and property owners on a daily basis, so we understand the complexities of what lease agreements in the D.C. area need to protect your investment property. Before you diagnose your screening process, be sure to look at your lease to ensure it has no gaps that could be misconstrued by your residents.
Some clear rules in the lease and early conversations about your expectations as a property owner can help protect you as well, especially when your renters have the ability to change their behaviors. These conversations and requirements might include:
- The requirement that emergency exits be clear and that there be paths through the apartment.
- The right to request changes to cleanliness habits and open food containers if pests are repeatedly attracted to the home.
- The right to limit or ban pets (not just dogs and cats) according to your pet criteria.
Talking these elements over while discussing the lease allows you to see if the potential renter has a problem with your rules.
Remember that it is acceptable for them to have and keep more stuff than you would want to keep in the rental. The concerns come from damage to the property or danger to themselves or others. When in doubt, it's best to defer to high-quality property management services to handle the creation of your lease agreement and your screening process.
Processes to Follow Relating to Hoarding Behavior
If you're a solo property owner with no assistance from the expert property management D.C. offers, you can still take steps to protect yourself and your properties.
- When you first suspect issues related to hoarding, document what you know objectively and without judgment. Focus on what you know and note the conditions relative to potential lease violations.
- Give the renter a notice that clarifies what element of their behavior needs to change to stay within the bounds of the lease.
- If things don't change, you should speak to an attorney who can help you understand the particulars of the renter's legal protection.
- If your renter is open to it, you can offer professional counseling and clean-up services since undoing hoarding-level clutter can be very overwhelming on one's own.
- Finally, if no help is accepted, changes aren't made, and your attorney advises it, move forward with eviction to protect your own interests over time.
We're Here to Help Property Owners Across the D.C. Area
When you need professional insight, expertise, and property management services to address a hoarding resident, turn to EJF Real Estate Services. We are the expert in property management D.C. investors need to address hoarding behaviors in your rental property properly!
When you're feeling overwhelmed by the behaviors of your residents, it's likely they're feeling just as overwhelmed with the same scenario. Allow us to be your professional buffer, and get in touch with us for assistance immediately.