Address Our Mess, a company that specializes in helping landlords and tenants deal with hoarding issues, recently warned that animal hoarding has become a serious problem in New York City.
The company cites the tight rental market and a shortage of pet-friendly rentals as factors that force hoarders to double down on efforts to hide the problem from their landlords.
Similar rental conditions exist in many cities throughout Canada. While cases are rare, hoarding causes serious property damage, so landlords should be mindful that an animal hoarding problem could occur in their rental properties.
Animal hoarding can go undetected for months. What’s more, the person who hoards animals may not be keeping these pets in a safe or sanitary manner. Hoarding often involves stockpiles of trash, including perishable items like pet food that attracts pests and generates appealing odours. Some damage may be permanent.
Animal hoarding is bad for all involved — the tenant, the landlord, the animals, and the local animal shelters that often lack sufficient resources to care for a large number of animals in an emergency.
Eviction is not an easy fix due to the time and expense involved. Address Our Mess consults with landlords on ways to clean up the property and offer support to hoarders who are able to rehabilitate.
Not all hoarders can overcome the disorder, and unfortunately, eviction may be unavoidable in some cases. Still, discovering the problem early is crucial to minimizing income loss.
That’s achieved by frequent communication with the tenant, and routine property inspections. Hoarding typically occurs over a period of time, and signs may be present before the situation grows catastrophic.
It is also helpful to have clear language in the lease that both staves off problems by setting specific rules while at the same time providing a landlord with the remedy of eviction if the situation cannot be resolved.
For instance, if the leasing policy is no pets, then the lease should make that clear, as well as spell out the penalty for violators. These policies should be enforced uniformly so all tenants are treated the same. If pets are allowed, it may be helpful to limit the number of animals per unit, and include a provision that the tenant must keep the animals in a manner that respects local health codes.
It’s also a good idea to include multiple grounds for evicting a tenant who hoards animals, in addition to the pets policy. Breaking health codes, damaging the property, or endangering other residents are good examples.
Landlords must keep in mind that, even in properties with a no-pets policy, tenants with disabilities may be allowed to keep companion animals for emotional support, and many pet policies cannot be applied in that situation.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.