The problem of tenants who hoard continues to cause a significant housing management headache for social landlords.
Whilst some hoarding problems are very obvious and may be reported to a landlord by neighbours, others are harder to spot.
Invariably, the tenant is able to comply with the requirement to pay rent and may not be high on the list of “tenants I must visit” for Housing Officers. It is sometimes only the refusal of access eg. for gas servicing that alerts us to the possibility of a problem.
Hoarding cases take considerable time and a commitment to pro-active management from staff who may well already have too much to do. Making their lives easier involves planning ahead. Key to the management of a hoarding issue are:-
- a well drafted, workable policy on hoarding
- co-operation with other relevant agencies
- careful documentation of all steps taken/communications
There is a careful balance to be considered between sensitive handling of the tenant’s issues and the need to prepare for more drastic action – often Court action – if all else fails.
Steps taken to address the issues presented by a hoarding tenant must be planned as part of a wider, measurable assessment of progress with tackling the issue.
Tips for success include:
- taking photographs at regular intervals – these can help to identify improvements or show that things are slipping again. Photos should be taken from the same place/angle each time.
- clear, measurable targets for the tenant in stages that are reasonable. The National Housing Federation published guidance in August 2015 which includes a series of photographs that can be used as a pictorial guide to show tenants the level of tidiness they are expected to achieve (http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/pub.housing.org.uk/Hoarding_briefing_-_August_2015.pdf).
- adjustments for the tenant. If your tenant is hoarding unopened mail there is little point in posting warning letters to them – a more innovative means of communication should be sought to ensure that we are doing all we can to engage with the tenant.
- engaging other agencies – social services, the fire service and the environmental health department can all provide help and assistance. There may also be other agencies in the locality who can assist with specific issues or voluntary groups who can be called on to help.
- friends and family can provide invaluable insight, access and help in addressing the issues presented by a hoarding tenant. They are also some of the best people to act as litigation friend if one is needed in Court proceedings. Involving them early on can save time and costs later on.
In short, tackling hoarding is all about the letter “p”:-
- being Prepared to go to Court if you have to