Hoarding seems to be more prevalent today, possibly because it may be better understood with media attention and the disorder having its own TV series. This may seem like just something that happens on TV, but it can happen anywhere and in any homeowner association with varying degrees of severity. Many of the associations who have been faced with this issue have had limited options and have had to make difficult decisions. But for the hoarder’s neighbors, well, there is an old saying you can pick your friends, but not your family; well you can’t pick your neighbors either.
Compulsive hoarding or hoarding disorder is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive collecting of, and inability to discard, large quantities of objects that cover the living areas of the home. When clinically significant enough to impair functioning, hoarding can prevent typical uses of living space so as to limit activities such as cooking, cleaning, moving through the house, and sleeping. It can also be dangerous if it puts the individual or others at risk from fire, falling, poor sanitation, and other health concerns.
Hoarding was just labeled as a mental disorder in 2013 in the 5th edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Prevalence rates among the population have been estimated at 2-5% in adults. Per the DSM, hoarding appears to be more common in people with psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Other factors often associated with hoarding include alcohol dependence as well as paranoid, schizotypal, and avoidant traits. Family histories show strong positive correlations.
In 2008 a study was conducted to determine if there is a significant link between hoarding and interference in occupational and social functioning. Hoarding behavior is often so severe because of the poor insight of the hoarder in that they do not recognize hoarding as a problem. Without this insight, it is much more difficult to successfully treat individuals with this disorder. The results of this study found that hoarders were remarkably less likely to see a problem in a hoarding situation than the people closest to them might.
How it specifically can affect an association membership is that compulsive hoarding, in its worst forms, can cause fires, unclean conditions, pest and rodent infestations, injuries from tripping on clutter, and other health and safety hazards. A few symptoms hoarders might experience are: (1) They tend to hold onto a large number of items that most people would consider not useful or valuable, such as old newspapers or trash. (2) The home is so cluttered that many parts are inaccessible and can no longer be used for intended purposes, such as beds that cannot be slept in or kitchens that cannot be used for cooking. (3) The clutter and mess is so bad that it causes illness, distress, and impairment.
Associations faced with compulsive hoarding have had to deal with numerous issues, but probably the two most serious are health/safety concerns and the structural integrity of common elements. Health and safety issues, such as hoarding garbage, can cause rodent and foul odor problems, which can garner the most attention from neighbors. However, the structural integrity of a home can be even more of a problem because, in multifamily structures, neighboring homes may not be aware of the potential problems caused by the hoarding neighbor. For example, a person is hoarding old newspapers, telephone books or other heavy material that does not smell or attract pests, and the neighboring unit owner may never suspect a problem. But the additional weight to the unit floors from the weight of the newspapers can cause structural integrity issues that affect the entire building not just the hoarder’s unit.
Another form of hoarding that many may not be associated directly with hoarding is animal hoarding. Animal hoarding is a subtype of compulsive hoarding and as of late seems to garner the most negative attention within a community because of the overall nuisance it can cause beyond the walls of the hoarder’s home. Animal hoarding involves keeping larger than usual numbers of animals as pets without having the ability to properly house or care for them, while at the same time denying this inability. Hoarders are deeply attached to their pets and find it extremely difficult to let them go. They typically cannot comprehend that they are harming their pets by not providing them with proper care. Hoarders tend to believe that they provide the right amount of care for their pets.
No matter the form of hoarding, there are remedies if the hoarding situation rises to a problematic level. However, these remedies may not be easily or quickly implemented. If the association’s governing documents do not address the problem, such as the number of animals that are allowed, most municipalities have ordnances, animal control, health ordnances, and building codes that can be utilized to help resolve the problem. Unfortunately, even with these municipalities having legal remedies, problems can still take considerable time to resolve.
For a nongovernmental alternative solution for members suffering from animal hoarding, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals provides a “Hoarding Prevention Team.” The Hoarding Prevention Team works with hoarders to help them attain a manageable and healthy number of pets. WDPM
Copyright – William Douglas Management, Inc. 2016