The Problem of Hoarding and How an HOA Can Address it

by AssociationLawGroup

Hoarding has become a serious issue across the country, particularly in condos where there is an increased risk of fire. Here are some techniques an HOA can use to combat hoarding.

Hoarding is a serious problem that affects millions of people, although it's especially dangerous in condominiums and apartments. HOAs must be very proactive in regards to this issue because there is a much higher risk of fire in condo developments. While part of good homeowners association management includes watching for signs of hoarding, an HOA does need to be careful to stay within the bounds of the law.

Image credit: Cordelia Naumann at Flick

 

Hoarding behavior is only recently gaining a lot of public awareness, in part due to T.V. shows like Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive. Many associations around the country, including Florida HOAs, have yet to set up guidelines to identify and evaluate this problem.

It can also be a very delicate situation as there may be mental health issues involved. Because associations are legally required to accommodate disabilities, hoarding requires careful treading. An HOA must simultaneously stay on top of the situation and be mindful of fire risks while avoiding a situation that creates liability.

Check the Governing Documents First

One of the first things an association should do when hoarding is suspected is check the governing documents to look for provisions that allow the HOA to investigate and then investigate the problem. Most hoarding that's visible from outside of the unit can be easily addressed, although it's much more difficult if there is no visible clutter from outside. If no problem is detected from outside the owner's unit, the association should look for any safety or health provisions in the governing documents that forbid owners from creating an unreasonable fire risk, for example.

Identifying the Problem

One of the biggest problems is determining when an owner is actually violating these health and safety provisions. Most states do not allow an association to enter an owner's unit for an inspection, including Florida condo law which forbids this practice. Below are some suggested ways for an HOA to proactively monitor and then address the very real threat of hoarding.

Two Ways to Address Hoarding in an HOA

1. Use valid inspections

Condominiums do require annual inspections, so it's always a good idea to let your local government help in these situations. By contacting the local code compliance department, much of the burden and liability can be removed from the association. If the association plans to change insurance, a fire and health compliance inspection is also reasonable. Make sure you provide all owners with sufficient notice before a scheduled inspection to avoid any problems.

2. Contact the Owner

If there is a suspected problem, such as reports from a neighbor, start by sending a letter to the owner notifying them you are aware they have broken rule xxx, understand the condition of their home is xxx and they have a specific amount of time to fix it. If the person does not respond to the letter, an HOA attorney or law firm like Association Law Group should be contacted to determine if the association has the right to gain entrance to the unit. Generally, only emergency situations allow the association to enter a unit without permission, such as a report of a serious fire hazard ot a leak.

Learn More About Hoarding

International OCD Foundation - Hoarding
Learn more about hoarding, including the latest research and resources for families.

Compulsive Hoarding - Wikipedia

Hoarding - Mayo Clinic
Learn about symptoms and causes of hoarding, as well as treatment options and prevention.

Updated: on 10/26/2012, AssociationLawGroup
 
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