New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide




How to Address Resident Hoarding in Co-Op and Condo Boards: Strategies for Safety

Jennine Cullen, Associate Attorney, Taylor, Eldridge & Endres in Legal/Financial

New York City

Hoarding is becoming a major problem in many of our communities. This complex issue spans demographics, affecting both older and younger individuals. For co-op and condo boards, dealing with a resident who is hoarding requires compassionate intervention, prompt action and often strategic collaboration with the courts. The priority is resident safety, making sure the hoarding situation doesn’t present a fire risk or safety hazard. 

Gathering evidence. Documenting the problem is the first step in tackling a hoarding situation in a co-op or condo. This includes taking photographs of the unit and getting statements from other residents. A big concern for residents in these situations is ensuring there isn’t a fire hazard or an infestation of insects in the apartment where the hoarding is taking place. It’s important to protect the safety of all the residents in the building so getting witness statements and photographs as evidence is key.

Access for cleaning. Communicating with the unit owner on this issue, asking them to clean up the unit themselves or get in an exterminator, is an obvious starting point. Oftentimes it isn’t the most successful approach. If the resident does not grant any third-party access, the board will need to go to the courts and ask a judge for emergency orders in order to clear the unit. Even the Department of Health is not allowed to go into a unit without the owner's consent. In most situations, with the proper documentation, and the involvement of the Board of Health and other neighbors, judges are open to allowing these orders. 

Health concerns. Hoarding is classified as a mental illness. So in most cases the board would ask the court to appoint a guardian to help facilitate these situations where perhaps mental illness is an issue. This way the court-appointed guardian would be able to make decisions in the best interest of the unit owner. The board would then work hand-in-hand with the guardian to reach a satisfactory outcome. The best interest of the owner is to have a unit that is clean, free from debris and not a fire hazard so the guardian would work towards that goal. Once access to the unit is obtained, the board can put the owner’s items in storage, get an exterminator in and employ a cleaning crew. It’s not a case of getting rid of the items — unless they're destroyed or damaged — but putting them in storage so the owner can go in and clear it out themselves at their leisure. The storage will typically be at the unit-owner’s expense. 

Ask the Experts

learn more

Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

Source Guide

see the guide

Looking for a vendor?