A surprising number of people hoard, including individuals who hoard animals. In some cases, animal hoarding can go unnoticed to the proverbial outside world for at least some period. Ultimately, as time goes on and the number of animals being hoarded grows, others will become aware of what is going on. This includes neighbors of the person hoarding animals who begin to feel the effects of a growing number of animals at a neighboring residence. If you find yourself impacted by a neighbor who hoards animals, you do have some recourse you can consider employing to protect your interests.
There are five general courses of action you can consider taking if you are facing a situation in which your neighbor hoards animals. You may want to consider pursuing more than one of these avenues of recourse simultaneously. These are:
- Nuisance complaint with local health agency or building department
- Report to local animal welfare agency or organization
- Report to homeowner’s association
- Intervention by landlord
Nuisance Complaint With Local Health Agency or Building Department
One course of action you can take if you face a situation in which your neighbor is hoarding animals is to file a nuisance complaint with your local health or building department. These agencies typically exist as either part of the city or county government. These agencies have the legal authority when a nuisance exists at a residential property in your community.
Report To Local Animal Welfare Agency or Organization
Your community may have an animal welfare agency or a private organization dedicated to the wellbeing of animals. These types of agencies or organizations oftentimes have the ability to initiate action in regard to an animal hoarding situation. These agencies or organizations likely have created a network between different agencies to address an animal hoarding situation.
Report To Homeowner’s Association
If you are like many people and live in a residential community with a homeowner’s association, you can report an animal hoarding resident to the homeowner’s association. In any homeowner’s association agreement there will be specific directives regarding animals on the premises of residences within the community.
A homeowner’s association agreement is likely to also include mechanisms that can be implemented to address a residence who is hoarding animals. These are likely to include everything from continual financial penalties until the hoarding situation is remediated to other more significant punitive measures that can be taken by the homeowner’s association. Ultimately, if an animal hoarding resident fails to bring his or her conduct to an end, the association on behalf of community members may have been bestowed the power in the agreement to seek the removal of the hoarding person from the community.
Intervention by Landlord
If an animal hoarder is a residence in some type of rental community, like an apartment complex, a person living in the community who neighbors the hoarding tenant may have recourse involving the landlord. A tenant has the legal right to what is known as the “quiet enjoyment” of his or her unit. In other words, a tenant has the right to be able to use his or her rental unit without interference from other tenants.
Maintaining an animal hoard in a rental unit neighboring another tenant can be considered an act that interferes with that neighboring tenant’s use of his or her own home. The neighboring tenant being harmed by the existence of the conduct of the animal hoarder legally can seek assistance from the landlord.
When a hoarding tenant cannot fully enjoy his or her home because of the animal hoarding of a neighboring tenant, that renter can demand the landlord rectify. (A landlord could evict the offending tenant, if necessary.)
California quiet enjoyment law sets forth the specific process a tenant must follow in this type of situation. This includes how to notify the landlord of the offending situation, when a tenant might be able to withhold rent, and when a tenant may be able to legally break the lease if a landlord fails to address the matter of a tenant who is hoarding animals.
Finally, an ultimate course of action you can consider pursuing when all else fails is filing a lawsuit against your neighbor that hoards animals. From a legal standpoint, a person who hoards animals at a residential property is responsible for any nuisance created by such hoarding and for any harm caused to neighboring property owners because of the animal hoarding.
A lawsuit of this nature might seek damages or financial compensation for a number of different injuries caused by a neighboring animal hoarder:
- Compensation for creating a nuisance
- Compensation for personal injuries arising from a neighboring animal hoarder (including physical injuries as well as psychological and emotional distress)
- Damage to the property value of a neighboring residence