President, Rudd Realty
Clean the Apartment, Fight the Disease
Setting the Scene
It seems like almost every building in New York City has at least one hoarder or someone who acts like a hoarder. It is the responsibility of the managing agent to identify these people, report to the board of directors what’s going on in the apartments, and take appropriate action to help them cope with the problem.Hoarding is a disease. We recognize that now. The solution for cleaning up a hoarder’s apartment isn’t just going in and removing items. It’s really getting them help in the long-term to resolve their issue of why they hoard in the first place.
Following the Action
One building I manage has three hoarders with different conditions. The first person used the apartment for storage, and just collected things and put them in the apartment. She didn’t live in the building. We went to this person and discussed the condition and threatened to take her to court. We’ve solved this problem by having her remove a lot of things from the apartment, and by going in every month to exterminate the apartment so there are no vermin. She’s no longer a problem.
The second hoarder was actually an estate. Someone had died. The family did not want to deal with the apartment. The apartment had the possessions in it. It even had food. We went in and cleaned out the refrigerator. We turned the water off in the apartment so that there’d be no leaks. We also go in and exterminate the apartment monthly. Last summer, I was able to get the decedent’s family to come in and start removing some items. However, this has stalled. Now I’m approaching them to see if they will consider selling the apartment to the next-door neighbor. The third hoarder in this building was a person who lived in squalor. You could not walk around in this apartment. The bathroom was so full of junk that the hoarder used the building’s bathroom downstairs and would sit in the lobby all night because it was more comfortable than the apartment. We called the New York City Department for the Aging and got them involved. They helped make her aware that the condition was not acceptable.
Doing It Right
The manager absolutely needs the cooperation of the board of directors to correct a hoarding condition. If the managing agent is the only one willing to do it, it’s not going to work because often, you will have to litigate. It also requires that you have a board member or members who are prepared to monitor the apartment along with the managing agent. So the long-term solution is a partnership between the board and the managing agent.