We’ve all heard complaints about hoarders in communities and the health hazards associated with hoarding, such as the infestation of bugs and rodents.  But a condominium community in Phoenix, Arizona experienced the repercussions of hoarding when a fire caused significant damage to a unit due to hoarding.  An owner in the community who lived there 35 years apparently did not like to throw things away and collected quite a bit of “stuff” over the years.  The fire started in his unit and could have been small according to fire fighters, but because he had so many things stashed in the unit, the hoarding fueled the flames and completely destroyed the unit.  Luckily, fire fighters were able to save the remaining units.   Does your community do anything to manage hoarding?  Do your governing documents have provisions prohibiting hoarding or doing anything in the unit that may be fire hazard? Maybe now is a good time to think about updating your covenants to address this issue.  You may also want to consider adopting a policy on hoarding if your covenants don’t address the issue.

Elina B. Gilbert
2 responses to “Hoarding: It is a Fire Hazard?
  1. As a manager, I typically try to have as little as possible to do with what goes on inside the units. I really do believe that this is outside the purview of the association. Noise is one exception. That being said, there are notable instances when I have intervened to assist with “personal” problems that residents might be having, not because it is the association’s responsibility for me to do so, but because I feel IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. I would try to get help for a hoarder (or anyone else with a mental illness or behavioral problem), but not try to contrive a rule to enforce or take any punitive action on behalf of the association, such as a fine. There are lots of other instances in which resident behavior may put others at risk, and we don’t do anything about those, so why do we focus on hoarding?

    Case in point: Twelve years ago, a drunk neighbor upstairs put his dinner in the oven, and then proceeded to pass out. The food burned to a crisp and set off the smoke alarms and the fire sprinklers. Five-of-six units in this “pod” of the building were damaged by water. So should we be asking “Is drinking a fire hazard?” Of course not. Is smoking a fire hazard? Where does it end? There are other resources available to help hoarders, as well as alcoholics and others, but it is not our job, as HOA practicioners, to intervene in the private lives and personal behavior of residents. It is the job of fire marshals to assist in taking appropriate action to prevent fires. It is our job to deal with the visible effects of behavior, i.e. rules violations, but not the cause of the behavior. I realize that this sometimes means that we become involved a a little “late in the game,” but all of us need to quit trying to be the caretakers of each and every resident. And, as previously stated, if each of us, as individuals not representing the association, feel socially responsible enough to want to help someone, THAT is an entirely-different matter. I tire of those who keep wanting to pile on duties to the manager, who is already overworked and underpaid.

  2. I guess you have to be able to inspect to know whether or not you have a hoarder. Does this mean a covenent revision needs to include an inspection right for the HOA? What is a reasonable frequency of inspection?

    -Jim Fuller

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