New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Handling a Hoarder

Helene Schulman has been a unit-owner for the past 20 years in the Beekman East, a 141-unit condominium in midtown Manhattan. Over this time she hoarded a large amount of personal property, resulting in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in the apartment. In early 2023, a fire broke out in her apartment, seriously damaging her unit. After the fire, Schulman left a large amount of the damaged belongings in her apartment, causing numerous complaints from residents about noxious odors. Building staff inspected the apartment and, in addition to the large amounts of debris, saw mice crawling over the piles. The condo attempted to have Schulman clean the apartment on numerous occasions, to no avail, and the condition prevented the rodent extermination from taking place. The condo claimed that her failure to cure the conditions in the apartment interfered with its attempts to obtain property insurance for the entire building. 

In Court 

In Beekman East Condominium v. Schulman, the condo took action against Schulman for breach of contract and various equitable relief. It asked for a preliminary injunction directing Schulman to give the condo and its contractors access to the unit in order to cure the hoarding conditions, exterminate pests and repair the damage. Beekman East quoted relevant provisions in its bylaws and house rules giving it right of access and prohibiting any unit-owner from interfering with the rights of other owners.

In deciding this case, the court outlined what was necessary in order to issue a preliminary injunction: The plaintiff must show a likelihood of success on its claims and a danger of irreparable injury if not granted, and the balance of equities must be in the plaintiff’s favor. The court found that Beekman East met this threshold, and granted the preliminary injunction. It gave the condo access to cure the hoarding and to clean and inspect the apartment, noting that the governing documents were clear as to these rights. The court also agreed that the preliminary injunction was needed to prevent other unit-owners from being adversely affected by the noxious odors, the rodent infestation and the condo’s inability to obtain insurance. 

The Board Lesson

Beekman East was successful in court not only because the facts were so extreme but because the language in the governing documents was comprehensive and clear. It’s advisable for every board to review with its attorney the bylaws and house rules (and the proprietary lease in a co-op) to be sure that the language regarding accessing apartments is very strong and broad. This vigilance will lead to a successful outcome if the owner decides not to give access when the board requires it to conduct an inspection, make repairs or exterminate pests.



For Beekman East: Devin Ness

For Helene Schulman: Ronald Languedoc



Andrew P. Brucker is a partner at the law firm Armstrong Teasdale. The statements and views in this article are his own and not necessarily those of the firm.

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