Hoarding Places Rental Properties at Risk

by | Nov 12, 2012 | Tenant Screening

Hoarding may have contributed to a woman’s critical injuries after a fire swept through a Portland, Oregon home last month and hampered firefighters by fueling the flames and blocking exits.

 Neighbors had earlier reported the woman’s hoarding, and officials at the scene noted that as more people become aware of the risks of hoarding, such reports will continue to increase. 
According to the National Fire Protection Association, hoarding places responding firefighters at greater risk due to obstructed exits, falling objects, and excessive fire loading that can lead to collapse. Hoarding makes fighting fires and searching for occupants far more difficult.

The NFPA also warns that those living adjacent to a hoarder are harder hit by fire due to the available fuel and the excessive smoke.

Fire fighters particularly warn of risks when hoarded materials are stuffed into attics or crawlspaces because this causes fires to spread more quickly than expected, and sometimes the items are combustible.
Hoarding places rental properties at risk, and landlords face loss of income from damage and displaced tenants.

On average, about 5 out of 100 people are susceptible to hoarding, a behavior that is rooted in mental illness.

Hoarding increases risks in rental properties, including:

Fire danger,
Attracting pests, and
Hampering emergency response times.

The best angle for a landlord to take against hoarding is:

Careful tenant screening, including a talk with previous landlords.

Clear rules regarding the number of pets allowed.

Specific policies on storage of belongings,  including access routes and balconies.

Routine inspections to uncover a hoarding situation.

Because fire danger is one of the most common problems with tenant hoarding, a nonsmoking policy in the building may help minimize the risk, and lowers other costs and risks at the same time.

Evicting a hoarder may be easier to accomplish if the person has broken specific rules — either in the lease,  local laws, or building codes.

The best bet for landlords concerned about hoarding may be to enlist the help of local fire officials to spell out specific suggestions for an individual property. For now, the safest tack may be to incorporate local fire, building and zoning rules into leasing policies.  Landlords worried about a discrimination claim — because hoarding is considered an illness — could discuss the situation with their local housing office. 

Not all hoarders need be evicted.  With help from family, mental health or housing agencies, some will be able to abide by the tenancy rules.  The trick for landlords is laying out those specific rules — lines that the hoarder cannot cross without placing others or the property at risk.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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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.

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