Hoarding Versus Clutter: What Landlords and Tenants Need To Know

While not typical, hoarding is a genuine problem that landlords may have to deal with from time to time. In some cases, it can be hard to tell if a tenant is a hoarder or if they’re simply messy. Therefore, it’s essential to recognize the differences between hoarding and messiness. Here are some things that landlords and tenants should know about hoarding versus clutter.

Signs of Hoarding

Here are a few signs of advanced hoarding you can use to affirm whether or not your tenant has a problem that needs addressing.

  • Harsh smells come from within their place.
  • They’ve exceeded the pet limit and don’t clean pet waste and stains.
  • There’s visible mold and mildew.
  • The walkways are blocked or crowded.
  • The tenant does not allow anyone into storage areas.
  • Broken appliances and features are unreported.
  • They leave too many items outdoors.
  • Their vehicle is filthy and full of personal items.
  • They’re not willing to listen to cleanup suggestions, or they’re sensitive about the subject of cleanliness.

Contrast the signs above to those of a regular person who just happens to be messy.

  • They have personal items stacked on shelves or tabletops.
  • There is more than one days’ worth of dirty dishes in the sink.
  • They don’t complete regular cleaning tasks; there are many stains and lots of dust.
  • They’re shy about personal messes but willing to clean up.
  • They follow through on all cleanup requests.

What To Do When You Suspect Hoarding


If you do suspect hoarding, it is crucial to deal with it using empathy. Because hoarding is a psychological problem, this is something you have to recognize as an ongoing problem you must be patient with. As long as you know your tenant is tiring to rectify their problems in slow steps (and not just disregarding anything you say), don’t take any drastic action that could make them feel even more uncomfortable.

Establish a Lease Cleanliness Clause

If the tenant agrees to try and rectify their problems, have them sign a lease cleanliness clause. This will hold them to their word about the state of their rental in a legally binding contract. That way, if they disagree with your cleanliness policy in the future and make no effort to improve, you can legally evict them without the worry of retaliation.


If the tenant does not agree to your cleanliness conditions, document every major violation you can find. If you ever go to court over evicting them in the future, it’s essential to have evidence of the infractions in the first place so you can prove your reasons for eviction.

We hope this article has sufficiently informed you of what landlords and tenants need to know about hoarding and clutter. If you need professional property management services, reach out to Russell Properties today! We are dedicated to helping you manage your property professionally and efficiently.