Tag Archives: Hoarding

Hoarder Refusing Unit Access Adds to Hurricane Irma Damage

E.E. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We just suffered flooding due to Hurricane Irma in 3 of our 6 townhome buildings. The building where we are having an issue has 6 units adjoined by a 2-hour firewall. We have 1 unit owner is a hoarder – very bad, almost no walkpath. The unit flooded and we need her to move everything on the 1st floor for the repairs that the Association’s insurance is willing to do so that she doesn’t have a black mold issue. The drywall, the cabinets and flooring all have to be removed. She is saying she has no plan to move anything out or make repairs. The concern is not only for her but the adjoining unit owners. Can we make her comply for repairs?

Mister Condo replies:

E.E., I am sorry that your community suffered Irma’s wrath. Like so many other condominiums in your region, damage was significant and clean-up efforts will be ongoing for quite some time. You now face a serious challenge with a hoarder blocking access to her unit for clean-up. While most folks would welcome the cavalry arrival to get things back to normal, the hoarder’s brain works in a different manner. All is not lost, although I think you will find this a difficult battle. It’s all about where the line is drawn between unit owner’s rights and the rights of the HOA. My first call would be to the association attorney who can help guide you through what may become a lengthy legal process of actually having access granted. Of course, your first step is to work with the unit owner and/or any known family members who may be able to step in and let the restoration company get in and do its work. However, if the unit owner refuses to voluntarily provide access (typical hoarder behavior from my experience), the association needs to take more aggressive action. While the unit owner’s health is most certainly at stake, so are the neighboring units and even the entire building. Mold isn’t just unsightly; it can be deadly. This is an unfortunate complication to an already bad situation but, trust me, you will get through this. I wish you all the best in your recovery efforts.

Hoarding Condo Unit Owner Leaves; Rubbish Remains!

C.V. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The next door neighbor ended up having to leave her condo and go into assisted living 2 years gone now. A month ago, a horrible order was coming through my walls in upstairs rooms. The manger was finally able to get into the neighbor’s condo and found that the refrigerator had stopped working. All food in there (2 year old food!) had rotted and built up gasses. They had to wear masks just to try and get the mess out of there! There were maggots, flies, etc… While they were in there, they saw the previous unit owner was a hoarder and had collected all kinds of trash. We used fans and painted our closets against the wall that attached to her condo to try and put a sealer between us. Finally, the smell is gone but she has not done one thing to have anyone clean out her condo. She did tell the manager she was not coming back and, as far as I know, she does pay her condo fees. The manger did tell her that he would need to winterize her unit and shut off the water due to the dangers of other things going back like her water heater plus she has trash in there and papers up against the heat registers. My question is what legal recourse do we have in case yet another thing happens? I have reached out to the condo manager in writing my fears and concerns of fire and water damage so we will see what they think. Not sure what can be legally done if she refuses to clean it out. For sure, she cannot sell it as it is with the rot in there. When the bylaws were made 25 years ago the word hoarder was not even around but for sure now it needs to be in the bylaws I would think.

Mister Condo replies:

C.V., your question is one that I feel is not asked often enough in community associations here and around the country. There are lots of dangerous activities that can go on inside of condominium units that put not only the unit resident in harm’s way but also the rest of the association and, in particular, the immediately adjoining units. I am truly sorry for the mess you now find yourself having to deal with. I have written two previous Ask Mister Condo column answers about issues with Hoarders and I encourage you to review those articles for more advice. You can read them at http://askmistercondo.com/board/aluminum-wiring-at-condo-unit-of-a-hoarder/ and http://askmistercondo.com/board/hoarding-leads-to-mouse-infestation-at-condo/.

Basically, taking action requires strong resolve by the Board and the guidance of a qualified attorney who is likely going to seek a court order allowing entry into the unit for the purpose of safety. Hoarding, as such, is often not addressed in association governing documents. However, access to unit for safety purposes often is allowed provided adequate notice is served. Boards can generally take action against unit owners who create an unsafe environment within their unit. Hoarding can usually be demonstrated to create a fire hazard and/or a general health and safety concern. The Board may be able to order the unit cleared of debris to create a safe environment for all unit owners.

My advice is twofold. First, work with the Board to see what actions they are willing to take. Understand that this type of thing takes time. The Board cannot simply enter the unit; they will need good reason and, perhaps, a court order. They will also have to hire a junk removal company with hoarding removal experience. It is not unusual for the livable space to be more than 50% full of debris so dumpsters and more are often needed. At the same time, I would reach out to a local attorney to see what rights you have. You may be able to sue the neighbor for damage to your unit. You may even have a suit against your association for not dealing with the problem. An attorney can best advise you of how to protect yourself in this situation.

I wish you a safe and speedy return to normalcy. Thank you for sharing your story. All the best!

Aluminum Wiring at Condo Unit of a Hoarder

P.D. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a hoarder compounded with aluminum wiring.  Is there a precedent for how to deal with this problem?

Mister Condo replies:

P.D., my short answer is “Yikes”! You have two very different and potentially very serious issues here. I am not sure which one should be tackled first but my instinct is that a lot of this will boil down to the association’s right to access the unit for inspection and/or remediation. As you know, I am not an attorney but this is a situation where you are very likely going to want to seek the advice of qualified counsel as you may find yourself in need of assistance from the courts in dealing with the hoarding issue, especially if you require access to the unit to remediate the aluminum wiring issue.

Hoarding, as such, is often not addressed in association governing documents. However, access to unit for safety purposes often is allowed provided adequate notice is served. Boards can generally take action against unit owners who create an unsafe environment within their unit. Hoarding can usually be demonstrated to create a fire hazard and/or a general health and safety concern. The Board may be able to order the unit cleared of debris to create a safe environment for all unit owners.

Aluminum wiring remediation is necessary to avoid potential electrical problems and fire hazards associated with the wiring. Obviously, you will need access to the unit to perform this repair. My guess is that you will need to get the unit in reasonable order so that workers can get the job done.

Neither of these projects will be simple and correcting the hoarding issue could even be quite costly from a legal perspective. You asked about precedents and there are several I have read about online. Search for “Hoarding and condominiums” and you will see what I saw. There is an excellent article at this website – http://www.meeb.com/more-condominium-communities-are-struggling-with-hoarders-and-the-problems-they-create/ which I highly recommend.

This is a difficult problem and I do not envy you your task. Speak with association counsel before you begin and be prepared for lots of little setbacks along the way. However, with patience and proper procedure followed I am confident that you will correct both problems. All the best!

Hoarding Leads to Mouse Infestation at Condo

M.L. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What recourse do I have if my association and Management Company are not addressing the problem of mice in a particular row of units? One unit owner is a hoarder and does not respond to inquiries from the management company.

Mister Condo replies:

M.L., this is a case of unit owner’s rights versus association rights. Your best course of action is to continue to pressure your Board and Property Manager to take action. If they refuse, you might want to check your by-laws or consult with an attorney to see if you can bring suit against the Board for not taking action to protect the association’s common property, in this case, your building. While it can be disgusting and unsettling, hoarding is not a crime. However, blocking access to doors may be a fire code violation. Storing potentially dangerous or flammable items is likely against your bylaws as is allowing the unit to fall into disrepair. These are all grounds by which your association could demand access to the unit for an inspection and take appropriate action once inside. Your Board may also need some legal advice here as well so please recommend that they speak with their association attorney before busting down your neighbor’s doors. Good luck!