Should You Intervene if a Tenant is a Hoarder?

Jon Fesmire |

Hoarding can be a serious problem. Many people who hoard fill their homes with things they don’t need—items that they’ve accumulated over the years that they’re unable to sell, give away, or throw away. As a self storage manager, what can you do when you discover a tenant stuffing their unit so full that you suspect them of having a serious hoarding problem?

Hoarding Vs. Clutter and Collecting

First, it’s important to understand the differences between clutter, collecting, and hoarding. Some people simply have a difficult time keeping areas clean, and accumulate clutter. The entire point of spring cleaning is for people with clutter to take a day or so to clean everything up. When there’s clutter, people can still get around their homes and use rooms for their intended purpose. They can cook in the kitchen, work in the office, relax in the living room, and sleep in the bedroom.

Collectors take pride in the things they amass, like tea sets, comic books, or playing cards. They take care of their collections and often enjoy showing them to people.

Hoarders don’t want people to know they hoard, and will avoid having people see their homes. They don’t want to be forced to get rid of anything. Also, they may have so much that they can’t even get into some rooms, and certainly can’t use many rooms for their intended purpose.

Your Options

When it comes to hoarders, your concern needs to be for the safety of your facility. If you notice that a tenant has a tightly-packed unit, is that a problem for your business?

Do you suspect the tenant is storing prohibited items? In that case, you can take legal measures to get them to leave.

What if you discover that a unit is filled not only with boxes, but items piled in between, and is such a mess that it poses a fire hazard?

That is just as big a danger to your property as is storing prohibited items. It’s time to ask them to move on. You will need to follow the legal procedures for evicting tenants in your state.

Unfortunately, you’re not a psychiatrist and cannot diagnose hoarding. You may get into legal trouble if you approach a tenant and accuse them of hoarding. Once again, in this case, your job is to protect your property and the interest of your other tenants.

Is Early Intervention Possible?

Consider creating a flyer about hoarding that any of your tenants is free to take a copy of. They may even be pleasantly surprised that a self storage facility is encouraging them to par down their possessions rather than sell them more space.

The flyer doesn’t even have to use the word “hoarding.” It might say something like, “Concerned You Have Too Much?”

It can then go on to suggest how to decide what to give away, sell, or throw out. They may want to get rid of things they haven’t used in a certain number of years, duplicates of things they have, and things they no longer enjoy.

Also, it should encourage them to sort out these things before they bring their first batch of boxes to storage. That way, right after renting a unit, they can go through their belongings, deciding what to keep at home, what to store, and what to sell, donate, or junk.

At the end, suggest that if they or someone they know has serious difficulty getting rid of things they no longer need, to consider seeking professional help, and that while uncommon, hoarding is a serious condition that can diminish quality of life.

Hopefully, that will help someone out there, and make your facility safe for everyone.