New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Addressing Mental Illness

Young and old. As much as hoarding is perceived as a problem in the older community, we’re actually seeing it in younger people as well. The first thing we do when we suspect that a resident is a hoarder is to gather as much documentation as possible by taking photographs of the unit and speaking with other residents and witnesses and getting their statements in writing.

Going to court. We also try to communicate with the hoarder. We can ask the person to clean up the unit, but oftentimes that’s really not successful. If the resident will not allow us to enter the apartment, we’ll need a court order. Even the Department of Health is not allowed to go into a unit without the owner’s consent. So we have been going to the courts and asking for emergency orders to clear the apartment, perhaps get a storage unit where items can be moved to, and bring in an exterminator and cleaning crew.

Because hoarding is classified as a mental illness, we also ask the court to appoint a guardian, who can make decisions in the best interest of the shareholder or unit-owner. The board then works hand in hand with the guardian.

Don’t delay. Above all, boards should always act promptly when dealing with a hoarder. One of our biggest concerns is to make sure there’s not a fire hazard or an infestation, and if there is, to remediate it as soon as possible. Protecting the safety of all residents is primary.

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