Condo Media - April 2018 - 16

Asked & Answered

Hoarders!

When it Becomes More Than a Simple Clean-Up

We have a hoarder in our community and,
judging by the smell coming from the unit,
we suspect it may need more than some
organizing and a simple clean-up. How
should we proceed? What protocols should
we follow to gain access to the unit? And
how should we go about cleaning it up?

The short answer to your first question is: You should
proceed carefully. The more detailed response from
Mary-Joy Howes, a partner in Goodman, Shapiro &
Lombardi, LLC, explains why.
Beginning with access to the unit: The obvious first
step is to ask the owner to let you in. If he or she refuses,
Howes suggests you send a written notice indicating that
if the owner doesn't respond within a specified time, the
board will use its authority to enter the unit.
Most governing documents authorize boards to enter
a unit to deal with an emergency. If this were an emergency-a broken pipe flooding the unit, for example-
you wouldn't have to provide this notice, Howes points
out. Boards also typically have the authority, under
their governing documents, the state condominium
statute, or both, to enter a unit when necessary to deal
with conditions affecting the health, safety, or wellbeing of other residents.
"Boards have a lot of wiggle room to gain access to a
unit," Howes notes. "You just need to find a legal 'nexus'
[hook] justifying the entry." A noxious odor emanating
from a unit would certainly qualify, she says.
Boards sometimes hesitate to act in situations like
this, she adds, because they're not sure they should get
involved. "Not only can boards get involved," she says,
"when conditions in a unit affect other residents, boards
have an obligation to act."
A situation she handled for an association client
provides something of a case study in how boards should
proceed. Residents in this community reported a foul
odor coming from a unit. They also heard animal noises
that seemed to be created by many more than the one
dog or two cats the association's rules allowed. Not
knowing exactly what the board would find in the unit,

16

CONDOMEDIA

Howes contacted the local animal control agency for
assistance. Anticipating that the owner, who had not
responded to the written notice, might be uncooperative,
she requested police assistance, too.
When the owner opened the door, Howes says, the
smell "was overpowering" and the conditions horrific.
The 20-plus animals the owner was hoarding had been
using the entire unit as their bathroom. Floors were
urine-soaked, and feces were everywhere.
This brings us to your second question, how to handle
the clean-up. Howes's response: "Don't do it yourself."
When dealing with any kind of toxic or potentially toxic,
or just messy clean-up, she emphasizes, "You can't just go
in with guns blazing. You don't know what you're going
to be facing." Board members aren't trained to deal with
these situations, Howes cautions. They don't know how
to handle hazardous materials, such as mold, she notes,
and they don't know how to protect themselves and other
residents from the health risks those substances create.
Trustees who decide they can save money by tackling
a clean-up risk making a bad situation worse and a cleanup more expensive. Owners who create toxic conditions
in their units are responsible for the clean-up costs. But
if the trustees increase the damage-by accidentally
spreading mold to other units, for example-the association will incur both the added costs and the liability for
damages suffered by other residents.
That's why Howes emphasizes to "bring in experts,
who have the training and the proper equipment and
know what they're doing. You want to let the right people
do the right things," she adds. "If you try to cut corners,
you'll turn a problem into a disaster and you'll end up
tripling your costs."



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Condo Media - April 2018

Contents
Condo Media - April 2018 - BB1
Condo Media - April 2018 - BB2
Condo Media - April 2018 - Cover1
Condo Media - April 2018 - Cover2
Condo Media - April 2018 - Contents
Condo Media - April 2018 - 2
Condo Media - April 2018 - 3
Condo Media - April 2018 - 4
Condo Media - April 2018 - 5
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Condo Media - April 2018 - Cover3
Condo Media - April 2018 - Cover4
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