Tips for Dealing with Hoarders in your HOA

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Whether you have heard about it, witnessed it, or experienced it firsthand, you are probably familiar with the destructive effects that hoarding can have on people’s lives.

There are many misconceptions about hoarding, some of which involve the victim’s mental well being, and what constitutes hoarding; not every person with a messy living space qualifies as a hoarder. This article will help address the reality of hoarding and what you can do as a neighbor and as an HOA.

What is hoarding? Who is a hoarder?

While many might believe that their Uncle Bob is a hoarder because he refuses to clean his living room, only a small percentage of Americans are classified as hoarders, around 2-5%.

Hoarders typically have psychological disorders paired along with their inability to get rid of certain (or all) belongings. The definition from the American Psychiatric Association states, “Hoarding disorder is characterized by the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of the value others may attribute to these possessions...They accumulate a large number of possessions that often fill up or clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that their intended use is no longer possible.” In addition, hoarding often has “harmful effects—emotional, physical, social, financial, and even legal—for the person suffering from the disorder and family members.”

It’s probably not hard to imagine what the APA is talking about; we see it in media horror stories and on reality TV shows. Rooms and rooms filled floor to ceiling with useless and unhealthy belongings can be be very damaging to those living in it and those living around it.

Being Neighbors with a Hoarder

Hoarding is unfortunately not a private problem.  If there is someone on your street or in the vicinity of your property that hoards possessions, then there is a chance that their behavior could affect you and your property.

Fire hazards and the attraction of insects or small animals (mice, rats, etc.) are the most common issues resulting from hoarding, both of which are highly undesirable and can drastically reduce property values.

If, and only if, you have a trusting relationship in place with the hoarder, consider talking to them in the company of their family and friends. Address the issue and help them see why it is not okay. If they so desire it, you may be able to assist in seeking medical attention and cleaning out their property. Only approach the hoarder with sensitivity and patience to the situation. Do not belittle their problems or prove unhelpful in the cleanup; this will only aggravate the situation.

If either one becomes a pressing problem, contact your HOA board and then your local/city authorities.

What can the HOA do about Hoarders?

HOAs have a duty to protect the welfare and safety of their homeowners.  Hoarding can't be ignored.  Your HOA may already have a clause in the governing documents specificall against hoarding.  Some HOAs having powerful tools that allow them to inspect and demand change on the hoarder’s property.  If your HOA doesn't have these provisions, it's probably time to amend the governing documents.  Even if you don't want to give the HOA inspection powers over private property, the hoarding clause is essential so that the HOA has legal remedy after contacting civic authority.

While they can only do these things with probable cause, local authorities may have a stronger pull. If you are worried about your safety or health, contact an inspector or code enforcement agency. They should be able to help you take the next step, as well as help the hoarder.

Remain calm and patient with your fellow homeowner, as you may not know all of the psychological factors in play. This is not only a decent thing to do, but a safety issue for the person approaching the hoarder.  The hoarder will probably need 3rd party help and guidance to heal and overcome this difficult and harmful disorder.


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Source: Neighborhood Link - Sabrina Robinson
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