From time to time, homeowners’ associations (“HOAs”) are faced with the problem of addressing a resident who hoards. The Mayo Clinic defines hoarding as:
“. . . the excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them. Hoarding often creates such cramped living conditions that homes may be filled to capacity, with only narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter. Some people also collect animals, keeping dozens or hundreds of pets often in unsanitary conditions.
Hoarding, also called compulsive hoarding and compulsive hoarding syndrome, may be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). But many people who hoard don’t have other OCD-related symptoms.
People who hoard often don’t see it as a problem, making treatment challenging. But intensive treatment can help people who hoard understand their compulsions and live safer, more enjoyable lives.”
In a condominium or townhome community, hoarding is particularly problematic because of the health and safety concerns associated with sharing common walls or living in the same building with a hoarder. In these communities, the effects of hoarding cannot easily be contained within the hoarder’s unit. This reality was recently faced by an HOA in Arizona with a resident hoarding thousands of rats, a large number of tarantulas and hissing cockroaches. Obviously, the smell radiating from the badly damaged unit was unimaginable. Presumably, the health-related concerns for anyone living within close proximity of the unit were also alarming.
The HOA partnered with public health services to address the problem. But as the Mayo Clinic definition points out, many times hoarders do not see their activities as problematic. If your association is facing a hoarding problem, here are some recommendations for dealing with the issue:
- Contact local health, police and fire officials to report the problem and ask for assistance. If they can’t help, ask for advice on what governmental agency may be able to render assistance.
- Check out the declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions and the rules for your HOA to determine whether any provisions are helpful in dealing with the situation.
- Check your governing documents to determine whether any provisions allow access to units for the purpose of inspection.
- Talk with legal counsel about whether adoption of a policy addressing hoarding is advisable.
The bottom line is hoarding can pose very real health and safety concerns for residents living in HOAs. In addition, damage caused by extreme hoarding can sometimes adversely impact the infrastructure of the community. While it can be difficult to find solutions to hoarding, this is an issue that must be faced by associations.