Everyone loves to own things—sometimes even many things. But occasionally, ownership of things can go too far and accumulation can grow problematic. In the modern parlance, a too-many-thing-haver is often referred to as a “hoarder,” an individual who can prove a burden for their neighbors, their property, and their community at large. In a condominium or cooperative where communal living is paramount, this can grow exceptionally troublesome, as property values are intertwined and one resident's approach to – or disregard for – maintenance affects those around them.
So what to do when one suspects a hoarder in their own building? At some point a board must intervene, and knowing how and when to do so is part of the responsibility of managing a property.
According to Jeffrey M. Heidings, president of Siren Management Corp., in Manhattan, a super, porter or janitor will visit an apartment while engaging in regular sundry business, and occasionally, “see symptoms,” at which point it's reported to those in charge.
“In co-ops and condos, when you see hoarding of a nature that transcends a boundary, you must take steps to alleviate it,” Hastings explains. “In a co-op proprietary lease, there are provisions that state that a unit owner needs to keep their apartment in – and I don't know the precise language, necessarily – but 'inhabitable' condition. The line is drawn at one, two or both of the following conditions: items are being hoarded that are perishable and may attract vermin, or someone is overcrowding their apartment with flammable material. Either of these could beget a tragedy. In a clean apartment, should a spark hit something, it would be fine, but, with a hoarder, a spark may be in proximity to something that is immediately flammable, which is dangerous to the individual, the property and other residents. So you have to intervene at some point via an enforcement action.”
Stop Being Polite
Scenarios like this actually happen, and they can get quite grisly.