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When was the last time you talked to your elderly upstairs neighbor? Wasn’t someone complaining about lingering smells just recently?

Hoarder alert!

Hoarding disorder is the name of a mental condition in which a person has a compulsion to acquire large amounts of possessions but then can’t get rid of them. You may have a hoarder, say boards and resident managers, if odors or vermin increase in the vicinity of a particular apartment.

In such situations, the first step any board should take is inspecting the smelly apartment that people are complaining about. If a hoarding situation is discovered, the board must notify the resident informally that either a worrisome condition has been noticed or a complaint has been made.

Once that has been done, if the resident does not clean up his or her act, the board must take action. Its attorney can send a formal letter, outlining the steps the shareholder has to follow and warning that if this isn’t done, the hoarder may be forced to pay cleanup costs and legal and administrative fees in any action.

The board can also ask the shareholder’s family to intervene or else contact Adult Protective Services, which may assign a caseworker to move things along. There are also companies that specialize in cleaning out hoarders’ apartments, although that can be an expensive option.

In the end, a compassionate response is always best, but boards should know all their options before throwing someone out.

GLOSSARY

[Collyer Brothers Syndrome]

(Coll-yer bruth-erz sin-drome) Vernacular term for the mental disorder commonly known as hoarding. The term comes from the brothers Homer and Langley Collyer, who lived in a Harlem brownstone that was stuffed with 100 tons of their accumulated junk, including pickled human organs and the chassis of a Model T Ford. They died in March 1947, crushed by debris released by one of the booby traps they had designed to deter intruders.

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