Mental Health Canada defines compulsive hoarding as “Acquiring possessions along with the failure to discard them. This is even if the items are worthless, or no longer useful. Hoarded items fill the person’s home and garden, and can cause severe problems with day-to-day activities, and relationships. They may even pose a danger to life through being a fire or safety hazard.”
Compulsive Hoarding is a Mental Condition, Not a Habit
It’s important to distinguish between collecting and hoarding. Almost all collections contain items of cultural, historic or financial value. The items are organized by category and are on display as if in a museum.
Compulsive hoarding, by comparison is more like items dumped in a land tip. There is no attempt at all to display them attractively. What is trash to the rest of us is piled up higgledy-piggledy until a room may fill to the ceiling except for narrow passageways.
Hoarding is a Manifestation of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Approximately 2% of all Canadians display symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) according to Canadian Psychological Association. Mental Health Canada defines this as “A neurologic condition where individuals have problems with obsessions … they are compelled to do over and over again in order to relieve distress.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America believes a significant number of OCD sufferers flip over to compulsive hoarding after mental trauma that may sometimes lead to depression too. When this happens, their landlord faces a mounting dilemma.
Compulsive Hoarding What Should a Landlord Do
A landlord is not in a particularly strong position, especially without a written lease with a termination date. Courts tend to favour the idea hoarding is a pathology. Therefore, displaying compulsive hoarding behaviour is not a justified reason for evicting. The landlord’s only recourse is therefore meaningful property damage, or health and safety concerns.
Moreover, a number of human rights advocacy groups actively resist discrimination against hoarders according to University of Washington. Therefore landlords must do what they can up front to avoid becoming tangled in a conflict situation. Here are the things as landlord you could do.
# Actively check a potential new tenant’s references by previous landlords
# Decline an applicant who fails to provide three previous year’s addresses
# Find an excuse to visit a short-listed tenant at their current accommodation
# Insert a clause in the lease allowing landlord access at least twice a year
# Reasons could include checking fire alarms and inspecting for damp / mould
Before you discard this advice as draconian please revisit the photo at the top of this page. This advice is courtesy of real estate investment consultants Stonegate Equity.