Can I Evict My Tenant For Cluttering/Hoarding?

Cluttering hoarding tenants

Ah, this question brings back some pretty horrific and ridiculous memories.

I remember when I conducted a routine property inspection many moons ago, to find the place had been converted into a storage facility for, well, absolute garbage. The entire house was jam-packed with junk, from cheap ceramic ornaments to stacks and stacks of newspaper. Naturally, I was mortified and utterly baffled. What’s with the stacks of newspapers?

There was so much crammed into the property that it was difficult to manoeuvre through the rooms without either brushing against or knocking into an object.

What freaked me out the most was how my tenants’ were so blissfully at peace with their environment. Meanwhile, at the forefront of my mind, I was wondering why these people weren’t contained in padded cells. The whole situation was just bizarre.

So the million dollar question, can landlords evict tenants for cluttering/hoarding?

Obviously I’m not a legal professional (i.e. lawyer), I’m a nobody, so I can only tackle the question with my own experience and my limited knowledge of the law. Needless to say, you should seek advice from a professional if you require legal assistance with your specific case.

If you do require legal advice with problem tenants and/or evictions, you can access free landlord advice (no obligations) from our partner Legalforlandlords, one of the UK’s most popular and best rated landlord legal services.

Depending on the severity of your situation, the following courses of actions are the obvious ones that come to mind:

  • End the tenancy early (mid-tenancy) by eviction
  • Terminate the tenancy at the end of the fixed-term
  • Contact your local council/environment health

This blog post should hopefully help you determine which step(s) you might want to take!

Discovering tenants that clutter/hoard

In most cases, landlords/management agencies discover that they’ve been lumbered with a hoarder during a routine inspection or maintenance call. In extreme cases – and this is when you know you’ve got a serious issue on your hands – neighbours will complain, because unpleasant smells are oozing out of the property!

I guess this is a reminder of how critical routine property inspections are! I know they can be a pain in the royal ass for self-managing landlords, but don’t let that deter you. Stick with them and be regular. And if you’re using a management company, ensure they actually do conduct the inspections!

Here’s a guide on landlord property inspections if you’re interested.

Assessing how bad the situation is (i.e. clutter Vs health hazards

In these situations, it’s useful to be as objective as possible, because the reality is we all have different standards. Who’s to say you’re not just being anal?

Needless to say, this isn’t exactly an easy situation to manage; when you accuse someone of being a human junk collector, you’re essentially calling them filthy assholes and insulting the way they live their life, so proceed with caution. Be mindful of the fact that it can be an extremely sensitive issue, as hoarding/cluttering can be the result of mental health issues.

I think the first thing to determine is whether we’re just talking about clutter here, or if we’re talking about a serial hoarder and safety concerns. Someone that causes clutter isn’t necessarily dirty. For example, there’s a difference between cluttering a property with inanimate objects and filling the property with unsanitary rubbish which can create genuine pest problems. The latter is far more serious and concerning, and it may warrant a call to your local environmental health to investigate further.

If we’re talking about clutter, you might have a tough time relying on a Section 8 notice eviction notice to end the tenancy early (i.e. before the fixed-term ends). In fact, knowing how the legal system works and how it tends to favour tenants rights more often than not, I’m inclined to believe it might be a hopeless losing battle. So you may just have to deal with it for the time being.

If we’re talking about hoarding that is raising safety concerns, then you might have a better chance, but bear in mind if there’s resistance and denial from the tenant you’ll need evidence to support your case, which shouldn’t be difficult since hoarding is very apparent. But even so, it could end up being a good old fashioned back-and-forth, and that can last a miserable lifetime!

The grounds for eviction that might apply to cluttering/hoarding tenants

Ultimately, I’m not going to decide for you, on whether you have a case or not to terminate the tenancy early if your tenant is cluttering/hoarding. But I will point out the grounds for eviction which seem to make the most sense to use in this situation (if you were to proceed). They are Ground 12 and 13:

Ground 12: The tenant has breached any of the terms listed in the tenancy agreement.

Ground 13: The tenant has neglected or damaged the property, or they have sublet the property to another individual who has neglected or damaged the property.

For more information, here’s a blog post on how you can use a Section 8 to kickstart the eviction process and a complete list of the grounds available for eviction.

Can you wait until the end of the fixed term to repossess your property (instead of a mid-tenancy eviction)?

I get it. No one wants a messy tenant, least of all one that is using your property as a storage facility for garbage. You want them out!

By and large, landlords simply want tenants that pay rent on time and take care of their property, while tenants want law abiding landlords that provide safe and clean living conditions.

Problems occur when one or both parties don’t meet expectations; the situation can cause anxiety and stress, so it’s usually best to nip the problem in the butt as efficiently as possible. “Efficiently” being the operative word.

In my opinion, and as already said, I think it’s going to be awfully difficult to evict a tenant during a fixed-term tenancy for purely cluttering unless there are consequential signs of damage or health and safety concerns. Either way, I personally wouldn’t want to retain a tenant that’s excessively cluttering my property even if there aren’t any obvious dangers posed by their habits, because it doesn’t exactly exhibit good housekeeping practises, and their addiction can easily spiral out of control (if it hasn’t already). Unfortunately, people that clutter usually don’t suddenly stop, they’ll keep going even after seams bursts. That’s a scary thought.

If the concern isn’t too serious, instead of forcing the situation with an abrupt and uncertain section 8 notice, I would use the less abrupt and infinitely more reliable no-fault Section 21 notice. Essentially, that means notifying the tenant that I’ll be terminating the tenancy at the end of the fixed term (whether that be in 2 months time or 6 months time). Really though, the Section 21 route is almost always quicker and cleaner than the Section 8, because it’s a “no-fault” eviction, which means tenants can’t trigger a counter argument in defence. In the meantime, I would continue with the routine inspections to monitor the situation (i.e. to see if the hoarding leads to unsanitary or dangerous results).

Of course, some landlords might hit a stumbling block when they discover that they can’t serve a valid Section 21 notice because they haven’t complied with certain legal obligations (e.g. securing the deposit, serving an EPC at the beginning of a tenancy etc), which are prerequisites for serving a valid S21 notice. Yes, these are duties all responsible landlords will comply with, so it shouldn’t be an issue for those that have done their job properly. However, for those that fall short, they can either try the Section 8 route (good luck) because it’s not dependent on meeting legal obligations, or promptly comply with the neglected obligations before serving a Section 21 notice.

If you can’t wait because you feel the clutter/hoarding is out of control and causing safety concerns, then as said, you should first contact your local council/environment health to investigate further, and then decide how to progress based on their feedback.

Remember, if you do need legal advice with problem tenants and/or evictions, you can contact our partner Legalforlandlords.

Good luck, people!

Are you dealing with a tenant that clutters or hoards? What’s your story? Talk to me…

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