Anybody who lived through the early 2010s certainly has at least a vague recollection of the string of reality TV shows that hit the air around that time focused on hoarding. While these various TV series worked to highlight the most extreme cases of hoarding imaginable, this condition and the associated living conditions that come along with it are very real and something every condo management company out there needs to know how to handle, should they ever encounter it. Hoarding isn’t the same as a neighbor not picking up after their dog or the owners in unit 2B using their condo as a practice space for their Journey cover band. Hoarding requires compassion, empathy, and a helping hand.
A Breakdown of Hoarding
Hoarding isn’t a freely chosen way of living. Nobody gets up one morning and decides “You know what? I don’t think I’m ever going to throw out any flyer or newspaper I receive ever again.” We jest to keep the mood light, but at its core, hoarding is a persistent mental condition that lives under the larger umbrella of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders and is characterized by a difficulty in discarding or parting with possessions or physical objects, regardless of their material value.
These symptoms are often accompanied and compounded by a difficulty in categorizing or organizing possessions, suspicions of other people touching their items, an obsessive fear of losing or running out of things, and overwhelming distress about both the sheer amount of hoarded items and the thought of parting with any of them.
For all these reasons, hoarding can be difficult to deal with from a condo management perspective. It’s an entirely different circumstance in that it cannot be dealt with by sternly reprimanding the owner of the offending unit any more than you’d reprimand someone for having depression or diabetes. It is important to address, however, because the consequences of ignoring it can potentially be quite dire.
The Condo Hoarding Effect
Unfortunately, hoarding is something of a unique mental illness in that the manifestation of its symptoms don’t just impact the person dealing with it, but the physical space they exist in, as well. Extreme hoarding has the potential to create a laundry list of problems for condo board members and adjacent owners alike, including:
- Moulding: both a health hazard and financial risk, as remediation could be charged back to the condo owner(s), or at least come part and parcel with a hefty deductible payment;
- Air quality: not necessarily something that damages the building, but something nearby tenants will definitely start to complain about;
- Fire hazards: particularly when hoarding results in a build-up of clutter, paper products, etc. around heating outlets, stoves, or fireplaces;
- Rodent infestations: often present in cases of food hoarding; and
- Cleaning and turnover of the unit: oftentimes, hoarding can result in units that are now unsalvageable after the tenant decides to move on.
None of these issues is anything you or your fellow condo owners want to have to deal with in the long-term, which is why it’s important that hoarding, once identified, is handled in a quick, but ultimately compassionate manner.
How to Address Hoarding in Your Building
We’ll level with you: in our experience, hoarding isn’t something we’ve had to deal with all that often. That said, it does come up and when it does, your board or condo management team needs to check how they should deal with it. More often than not, hoarding is brought to management’s attention through complaints of smell or odor coming from a unit by nearby owners. Once hoarding has been identified as the cause, the best thing an Edmonton or Alberta-based condo management company can do is step aside and call for legal aid.
Why not just jump in and deal with it ourselves? Well, frankly, because there’s a mental health component involved with hoarding and condo management companies are not mental health experts. Neither are lawyers, to be fair, but legal assistance will be much more well-versed in how to handle these sorts of situations while respecting the rights of all those involved, and will also be better-connected to bring in the right mental health experts to help deal with an issue of hoarding in the proper manner – because the last thing a situation like this needs is more conflict thrown on the fire.
To Wrap It All Up
Hoarding can be a difficult situation to deal with, simply because in addition to sometimes-hazardous and often unsanitary nature of this behavior, it also puts the condo building itself in harms’ way, which as a shared asset and investment of every owner involved, can cause tension and raise tempers. Nobody wants their financial security to be put in jeopardy, which is why dealing with the perils of hoarding is so important. Remember, though, this doesn’t mean that there can’t be an element of compassion and respect for human dignity involved, too.
For more information on dealing with hoarding in your condo building, please give us a call at Catalyst Condo Management today – or, contact Alberta Health Services to learn more, contact a mental health expert, or seek help today.