One hundred five. That’s the total number of cats rescued from a two-bedroom apartment in Guelph last week.
The tenant voluntarily surrendered the animals to the Guelph Humane Society after she was evicted from the apartment for causing an estimated $20,000 in damage, including plumbing issues caused by flushing cat litter down the toilet.
According to a news report, the landlord, who believed the tenant had six cats and one dog, says it took 10 months to complete the eviction and obtain an order to remove the tenant and the animals.
Hoarding, considered by experts to be a mental disability, may be tied to a life trauma, such as the death of a loved one — or being evicted. Most hoarders will relapse without treatment.
While men are more likely to hoard materials such as newspapers or magazines, women account for the majority of animal hoarding, which generally is defined as “collecting” animals when the person cannot properly take care of them. Either situation can cause serious harm.
For instance, the National Fire Protection Association warns that hoarding makes it more difficult to fight fires and to search out occupants in an emergency. Materials being hoarded can increase the intensity of fires, block exits, and increase the risk of smoke inhalation.
Hoarding also may encourage pest infestations that can spread to other units.
There is little a landlord can do to avoid the problem if the person does not have a rental history that involved hoarding. Fortunately, a small number of people — about 5% of the population — appear to be susceptible to hoarding. Careful tenant screening that includes speaking with previous landlords is the best way to avoid a tenant who has caused significant property damage in the past.
Landlords may be able to limit property damage and reduce risks by exposing the situation as early as possible. To do that, the landlord must perform routine property inspections. These inspections are designed to flag unauthorized pets, ongoing damage, blocked exits, or signs of pests.
The tenancy agreement can provide regular intervals for inspections, which should be performed every three or four months. By advising the tenant that these inspections are imminent, a landlord may be able to deter hoarding or minimize damage to the unit.
Landlords in Canada who are uncomfortable conducting rental inspections on their own should contact a property inspector, like Jim Garnett, Canadian Tenant Inspection Services, Ltd. By hiring a third party to conduct the inspections, the landlord avoids any awkward interaction with the tenant yet still can manage the property professionally. Ignoring the need for inspections will greatly increase the risk of income loss.
The experts at Address My Mess, a service that helps to clean and restore homes subject to hoarding, say that communication is key once a hoarder is discovered. A compassionate approach will net better results than anger or threats, which only heighten the tenant’s distress. With some support, it may be possible for the hoarder to reform and meet the demands of the tenancy.
Hoarding could be considered a disability under the Human Rights Code, so a landlord may be expected to demonstrate a willingness to resolve hoarding issues and salvage the tenancy. If that is untenable, it may be necessary for the landlord to produce evidence that there is no reasonable alternative to eviction. Avoid derogatory statements that could be viewed as injuring the tenant’s dignity. The tenant can seek compensation for those injuries in the Human Rights Tribunal.
A tenancy agreement that clearly lays out boundaries can be useful to a hoarder and their family members or support system. Stated rules such as pet limitations, keeping clear access to doors and windows, and controlling corresponding pest outbreaks provide much-needed structure.
However, landlords may need to show more than the fact that a tenant is keeping animals in violation of a pet policy to obtain an eviction order. Damage to the property or health and safety concerns are far more compelling reasons for an arbitrator to allow the landlord to recover the unit.
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 is 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.