Q&A: Hoarding Problem

Q. Please help me. I live in a condo. My next door neighbor is a hoarder. She constantly leaves the front door open. I complained to the buildings department many times. The smell is awful; she has mice, roaches, and water bugs. What can I do?

                                           —Desperate Tenant

A. Says attorney David Savitt of law firm Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit, which has offices in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin: “As a general principle, owners are required under the governing documents of their association to keep their units in good, habitable condition. Because hoarding can put others’ health and safety at risk, boards have a myriad of options to address the hoarding. Residents should bring their concerns to their board as soon as possible so the board can determine how best to address the situation. Specifically, the board may, with the consent of the hoarding owner, access the unit to conduct an inspection and determine the extent of damage and work that may be required (i.e., electrical, plumbing, cleaning, extermination, etc.) to return the unit to a habitable condition. Depending on the severity of the hoarding, the board may elect to levy reasonable fines against the owner to encourage prompt cleaning of the unit. Additionally, the board should consult the governing documents of the association to determine whether costs incurred by the association to clean/repair the unit can be charged back to the hoarding owner. If the hoarding owner is cooperative, the board can handle this situation internally; however, circumstances may warrant obtaining a court order to compel access to the unit and compliance with the board’s demands.”

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