New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



How to Handle Hoarders Without Going to Court

The Challenge

We had received several complaints of a foul odor emanating from an apartment on a lower-level floor of the 65-unit co-op we manage on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We attempted to reach the resident and sent correspondence to the sponsor who owns the unit, and he, in turn, sent legal paperwork to his tenant, a woman in her 80s. We learned that the senior citizen occupying the apartment had serious hoarding issues, which was having an effect on her neighbors across the hall who were trying to sell their apartment. In addition, several nearby units reported mice and fly problems. As legal bills loomed greater, so too did the smells and the anger of her neighbors.

The Solution

We took an active role in trying to bring harmony back to the building. Our office and the board president met with the tenant directly, and we offered assistance. The super volunteered his time to help her clean the unit. The board president, after talking with the board, offered to have her apartment painted and the floor refinished. Once the debris was removed, the odors were completely alleviated. The resident was so pleased with her “new” living space that she talked about planning a dance party in her apartment. While the party never materialized, neighbors on the floor now say “hello” to each other, which they hadn’t been doing before this happened.

The Lesson

Sometimes, legal action shouldn’t be the first action. It isn’t always as effective as direct contact. Sometimes, the community can have a big impact on a bad situation by focusing on the human side of things and extending a helping hand to be good neighbors.

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