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Co-op Board Sues, Claiming Absent Shareholder Is a Hoarder

Upper East Side, Manhattan

Co-op board, hoarder, rodent infestation, lawsuit.

The co-op board at 31 E. 72nd St. has sued a shareholder, claiming she's a hoarder.

Jan. 20, 2023

Responding to every co-op and condo board's worst nightmare, the board at 31 E. 72nd St. is suing 86-year-old shareholder Joan Disse, alleging evidence of hoarding, a rodent infestation and a water leak that damaged the ceiling, The New York Post reports.

Disse has owned the one-bedroom apartment since 1965 but has not lived in it for years. Documents filed in the lawsuit include a “friendly hand-written note" by the co-op board’s president, Guy Maitland, who is also Disse's neighbor on the floor, “inquiring if the defendant needed assistance to remedy the situations at issue in this lawsuit.” Other court documents include photos of the interior of the apartment showing stacks of books, boxes of clothing and household goods and other possessions that make the rooms virtually impassible.

Maitland's note says the ceiling has “extensive damage from leaks,” and the unit is “in a very unsanitary and unhygienic state. Sooner or later, there will most likely be an intervention by the fire department, which has gotten more intensive in its enforcement measures over recent years.”

The co-op's lawyer, Deborah Koplovitz, a partner at Herrick Feinstein, did not return messages seeking a comment.

Maitland's note went unanswered by Disse last summer, the lawsuit says. It claims that Disse, who has “apparently left the apartment vacant for many years,” is required to maintain the interior in good repair, but is instead “keeping it as a quasi-storage facility.”

The board wants to send its own crew to clean up if Disse won’t — and is also seeking access for quarterly inspections. But a building’s super or staff, even if they have keys, cannot enter and clean up without the owner’s permission unless there’s an emergency, says Adam Leitman Bailey, a real-estate lawyer not connected to the case.

Disse says she has kept up with maintenance payments and assessments, but has not lived full-time in New York for at least a dozen years, having returned to her native St. Louis to care for her elderly stepfather and mother, both now deceased. Her mother died in 2010 at age 97. After that, Disse said, “I would go to New York for a day or two and that would be all. A day in New York would make you really happy if you live in the Midwest.”

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