If you’re on the HOA board, it's important to think about new challenges in your community. For example, hoarding is a newer issue for communities with aging-in-place residents.
Some people hoard because they believe the item will be useful in the future while others hold sentimental value and link memories to items. Some think the bargain is too good to pass up, and others simply can’t decide where it belongs.
Here’s what IKO Community Management suggest you do if you think your neighbor is a hostage to hoarding:
Understand what hoarding is. Before taking any action, you should know the difference between messiness and hoarding.
The American Psychiatric Association describes hoarding as a disorder “characterized by the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of the value others may attribute to these possessions.”
This behavior usually has harmful effects, including emotional, physical, social, financial, and legal tolls for the person suffering from the disorder, their neighbors, and their family members.
“For individuals who hoard, the quantity of their collected items sets them apart from people with normal collecting behaviors. They accumulate a large number of possessions that often fill up or clutter active living areas of the home...to the extent that their intended use is no longer possible.”
This is different from a neighbor dispute about having a barbecue on your front lawn or leaving the trash in the driveway instead of the curb. While these tendencies may be against HOA rules, they don’t constitute a psychological disorder or mental illness.
Correctly identify the problem. Some common signs include the following from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:
- Inability to throw away possessions
- Severe anxiety when attempting to discard items
- Great difficulty categorizing or organizing possessions
- Indecision about what to keep or where to put things
- Distress, such as feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed by possessions
- Suspicion of other people touching items
- Obsessive thoughts and actions: fear of running out of an item or of needing it in the future; checking the trash for accidentally discarded objects
- Functional impairments, including loss of living space, social isolation, family or marital discord, financial difficulties, health hazards
If your resident or neighbor exhibits any of those behaviors, move onto the next step.
Contact your HOA board or property manager. They can conduct an inspection of the suspected hoarder’s living space and give them a formal notice in advance. If they believe the situation calls for it, the HOA board or property manager can contact the emergency name and number given to them by the resident in question.
Call the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA). NAPSA is a non-profit that provides “Adult Protective Services (APS) programs a forum for sharing information, solving problems, and improving the quality of services for victims of elder and vulnerable adult mistreatment”, including hoarding.
They hire professional social workers “to strengthen the capacity of APS at the national, state, and local levels; to effectively and efficiently recognize, report, and respond to the needs of elders and adults with disabilities who are the victims of abuse, neglect, or exploitation; and to prevent such abuse whenever possible.”
If you, the HOA board, and/or the emergency contact determine that the NAPSA needs to get involved with a potential hoarding case, contact the appropriate association in your state:
District of Columbia Adult Protective Services
Maryland Adult Protective Services
Because it’s considered a mental illness, the vital piece of information to remember is to leave correcting hoarding to the professionals. For more information about how to handle aging residents, download IKO Community Management’s guide by clicking below: