Not every person who has a messy living space is a hoarder. Hoarders account for a small percentage of people in the United States—estimates indicate about two to five percent of the population meets the definition of a hoarder.
Hoarders are people who have psychological disorders that make it extremely difficult for them to get rid of certain (or all) possessions or items. According to the American Psychiatric Association, hoarding is “characterized by the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of the value others may attribute to these possessions. They accumulate a large number of possessions that often fill up or clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that their intended use is no longer possible.”
Hoarding can have detrimental effects on a person’s physical health, as well as effects on finances, family life and social life.
Hoarders and HOAs
For homeowners associations in Arizona, there is the understandable question of what an HOA can do about a homeownerwho is a hoarder. After all, a true hoarder isn’t just someone who’s a little messy—it’s someone who has an actual psychological problem. Where is the line at which an HOA can step in, and what are the appropriate steps to take?
First, it is important to remember that HOAs have a duty to protect all of their homeowners, and that means ensuring they have spaces that are safe and protect their welfare. Hoarding is an issue that simply cannot be ignored, because not only does it affect the individual who lives in the property in question, but it also affects their neighbors.
Many HOAs have clauses in their operational documents that focus specifically on hoarding, and others have tools in place that allow them to conduct inspections and mandate certain changes in a property. If you do not have such provisions in place in your governing documents,it’s important that you enact them as soon as possible, because there is a good chance you will need them at some point.
Other HOAs prefer to leave these issues up to local authorities, such as health inspectors or building code enforcers. These officials will be able to recommend the best ways for your HOA to proceed, and can also step in to take any action themselves as needed.
In any case, it is important to treat the homeowner with compassion. Again, hoarders are psychologically unable to throw away or get rid of items in the same way that most people can. You should always remain as patient as possible with a hoarder who is a member of your HOA, both because it is the right way to treat a person, and because trying to push them too hard too quickly could be extremely hazardous to their mental health. You may need to get a psychologist involved to help the hoarder deal with their disorder.
For more information about how homeowners associations in Arizona should handle hoarders, we encourage you to contact an HOA lawyer at Goodman Holmgren Smith today.