Hoarding — Tips for Handling a Hoarding Tenant

Nelda Schulte
3 min readNov 10, 2021

How do you handle a hoarding tenant?

When Skip Byrnum of Texas, USA, a regular fixture at meetings and church, went missing, friends called the police. Rescue workers had to cut holes in the roof to get into his cluttered property. Even then, it took five days to find his lifeless body buried under the debris.

Homer and Langley Collyer were brothers from New York who became famous for their bizarre and elaborate antics to protect their stuff. Their booby traps consisted of 100 lb. newspaper bundles which Langley accidentally set off while trying to bring his brother food. Unfortunately, Langley was ambushed by his own trap when a 100 lb. bundle crushed him. Homer’s arthritis prevented him from saving his brother, or himself, and he starved to death. Neighbors complained to police about the overpowering smell. It took police two hours to locate the bodies in the garbage.

Hoarding is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and is an officially recognized mental disorder. OCD is characterized by excessive acquisition and strong emotional attachment to worthless items. Hoarders are not able to organize, make decisions, and have difficulty socializing. Hoarding qualifies as a disability and although tenant hoarding may be grounds for eviction, hoarding tenants are protected under The Alberta Human Rights Act. As a landlord, you have a duty to accommodate which means you will need to offer the hoarder help before taking action to evict.

Hoarding can not only be unsightly and create toxic odours, but it can also lead to fire hazards, mold, insects, and rodent infestations and to a property being declared unfit or unsafe for human habitation.

To avoid being accused of taking discriminatory actions;

  • Set your cleaning/housekeeping expectations from the onset by including a housekeeping/maintenance clause in your lease or as an addendum that outlines garbage, recycling, and composting disposal. Include a detailed move-out cleaning checklist that tenants sign/date. This eliminates any ambiguity and provides proof that tenants know and agreed to your standards of cleanliness and maintenance.
  • Include quarterly maintenance inspections in your lease…
Nelda Schulte

Nelda Schulte is a freelance writer based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada who specializes in real estate.