Recognizing the Telltale Signs of Hoarding
When owners volunteer for their associations’ boards of directors, they probably don’t expect that their responsibilities will include dealing with mental health issues, but they can and increasingly do — for example, when an owner appears to be a hoarder.
While your clients may prefer not to get involved in such situations, that would be a mistake. You and your boards should recognize the warning signs that dangerous hoarding is occurring and know how to respond. Otherwise, they could face liability for failure to take action.
Unfortunately, hoarding isn’t uncommon in associations. “This has come up dozens of times in my career,” says Brendan Bunn, a partner practicing community association law with the Fairfax, Va., law firm Chadwick, Washington, Moriarty, Elmore & Bunn, P.C.
“It’s more common in a condominium setting than an HOA, where it’s usually in the backyard. It tends to happen in communities that are a little older, where the people have lived there a long time.”
Bunn recalls a case about a decade ago in the District of Columbia, involving an owner who had been hoarding for years. “No one knew until a smell came into the hallways. When they inspected, they found years and years worth of garbage, food wrappers, and, strangely, cleaning supplies.” After the association obtained an injunction ordering the owner to clean out the unit, about 80 bags of trash and objects were removed.
To learn more of the red flags for dangerous hoarding, read our new article, How to Deal with Hoarders.