An apartment or condo unit affected by hoarding can be dangerous and unhealthy for the resident, but it can also pose health and safety risks for neighbouring units. For property managers, dealing with residents with hoarding disorder can pose significant challenges that require professional assistance, especially in extreme situations. Property managers have an obligation to safeguard the building against health and safety risks posed by hoarding. Intervention and immediate action may sometimes be required.



Hoarding is a complex mental health disorder that makes it difficult for a person to discard or part with possessions, due to a perceived need to save the items regardless of their actual value. Attempts to part with possessions creates considerable distress and leads to decisions to save items instead of disposing of them. The resulting clutter can disrupt the ability of residents to use their living space safely, as well as pose health and safety risks for adjacent units.


There are different levels of hoarding, ranging from small, temporary amounts of clutter, requiring no action from property managers to situations that involve unsanitary or unsafe conditions, requiring intervention from professionals.



Problems caused by hoarding can include excessive clutter in living areas, foul odours, poor indoor air quality, mould and mildew, pest infestation, and walkways and rooms that are difficult to navigate. There may also be sanitation problems, fire hazards and other safety issues.



A major difficulty for property managers is that residents with hoarding disorder frequently deny onsite staff access to their apartments or condo units and resist cleanup requests. In addition, there may be significant costs incurred for debris removal, cleanup and repairs.


Hoarding situations can be identified by property managers through annual maintenance inspections. Lease terms should include an annual unit walkthrough. One key indicator of hoarding is when bathroom or kitchen areas become unusable as intended due to hoarding clutter and debris.


The fire department may need to be contacted for situations where fire hazards exist, and the health department contacted for other health and safety issues. Social service agencies may need to be brought in for residents who require other forms of personal assistance. Property managers will often need to enlist the services of professionally trained hoarding cleanup specialists.



Property managers need to discern between general clutter and messiness versus hoarding situations that require action. They must avoid performing unit clean outs on their own, however. Attempting unsolicited cleanup can be traumatizing to residents with a hoarding disorder and may also be illegal.


Depending on the level of hoarding, cleaning the unit of a hoarder can be a difficult undertaking that requires effective planning, detailed execution, and the proper equipment and expertise. In many cases, due to the level of contamination, hoarding cleanup technicians must utilize protective gear to avoid health risk while working in a hoarding environment.


Dealing with hoarding situations requires a professional and understanding approach, with experienced professionals who will treat each resident with compassion and respect.


Property managers may offer referrals to social workers or psychologists, self-storage facilities and hoarding cleanup services. They can also create a written plan-of-action agreed to by the resident, but they should maintain reasonable expectations and address the problem in stages.


Property managers must proceed cautiously, to strike a proper balance between the rights of residents and the rights of property owners. A compassionate approach, being interactive with the resident, patient, non-confrontational and process-oriented yields the most successful outcomes.



To prevent hoarding, property owners can be specific in their leases, establishing standards for housekeeping and accessing units upon reasonable notice. They can also define rules regarding obstructions in common areas, storing flammable or explosive items, disposing of garbage, reporting mould and mildew and various other resident responsibilities. The key is to communicate that these rules are in place to protect the health and safety of all residents.



Extreme cleaning and hoarding cleanup require specialized training and sensitivity. ServiceMaster Restore offers a hoarding cleanup services program that uses proven processes to resolve hoarding situations of any scale. Hoarding cleanup and extreme cleaning is a natural extension of our services, given we have over 70 years of experience and expertise providing professional cleaning and disaster restoration services.


Our trained hoarding cleanup teams perform proper hoarding debris removal, biohazard disposal, content cleaning for salvageable items, and general cleaning, sanitizing, and deodorizing services.


ServiceMaster Restore also offers these additional hoarding remediation services:

  • Help locating lost jewelry, hidden money and/or other valuable items
  • Coordinate recycling and shredding
  • Help distribute donations
  • Assist in distributing kept items to family members
  • Help facilitate paperwork required by local governments or agencies

When it comes to dealing with hoarding on your property, you can count on the experts at ServiceMaster Restore to resolve hoarding and extreme cleanup situations and restore your premises to a clean and healthy environment.