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When a Renter Is a Hoarder, What’s a Co-op To Do?

New York City

Hoarder Remedies

Hoarding is a disease, and it needs to be addressed on multiple fronts.

Jan. 22, 2019

The tenant in a rent-stabilized apartment in a co-op has turned into a hoarder. Neighboring apartments are being infested with mice and roaches. What should the affected shareholders and the co-op board do? 

It’s tricky, replies the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times, because the co-op board does not have a direct relationship with the hoarder. Instead, the hoarder’s lease is with her landlord, who is a shareholder in the co-op and must comply with the co-op’s rules. The landlord could ultimately take his tenant to housing court if she’s in violation of her lease. But there are less adversarial steps he should take first, like enlisting help from family members or such organizations as the Educational Alliance or Adult Protective Services

This problem will be resolved only if the co-op board compels the landlord to do his job. Aggrieved shareholders should write letters to the board and the managing agent, providing as much detail as possible about odors and evidence of vermin between the units. The letters should remind the board that the current conditions may violate the warranty of habitability, and they should urge the board to use whatever leverage it has over the landlord to force him to act.

Calling 311 is not advised. Reporting the condition to city government will probably antagonize shareholders because a violation from the Health Department will cost the co-op money but won’t fix the problem. Soliciting help from family members and social service agencies while putting pressure on the co-op board is more likely to produce results. “Sometimes when you employ multiple different remedies at once, all of those things would put pressure on the party to clean up their act,” says attorney Barry Margolis, a litigator at Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson. “It’s not a helpless or hopeless situation.”

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