NJAA and JAHMA Team Up to Educate Property Owners on Issues Surrounding Hoarding

Television shows on hoarding have raised visibility of the emotional struggles associated with an inability to discard items, but beyond the public’s fascination with such profound dysfunction are significant public health and practical concerns that were recently addressed at a seminar co-hosted by the New Jersey Apartment Association (NJAA) and the Jersey Affordable Housing Management Association (JAHMA).

The groups co-hosted their first event, educating over 125 property owners and managers on strategies to work with residents to prevent hoarding problems at multi-family properties.

The expert panel included Deborah M. Gershen Gennello, CPM of The Gershen Group, who discussed practical ways for apartment owners to deal with tenants who are hoarding, Bruce E. Gudin, Esq. of Levy, Ehrlich, Petriello, who talked about the legal rights of apartment owners, and Mary Anne Ross and Steven Majewski of UMDNJ University Behavioral Healthcare’s Comprehensive Services on Aging (COPSA) program who defined hoarding and explained some of the signs and symptoms of its underlying causes.

According to Ross, “Hoarding is a symptom of another disorder such as OCD, dementia or alcoholism.”  Majewski added that in order for a tenant to overcome hoarding, they need a strong support system that includes family members and social workers and can include property owners.

Gennello provided some helpful tips on how to decide between eviction and intervention such as working with a family member or social worker to help the tenant realize that their ‘collection’ has a negative effect on everyone in the building including the tenant in question.

Many in the room were resigned to the belief that the laws ignored the safety of the community and left property managers few options to make a hoarder clean up. Gudin reviewed several regulations that create a shared responsibility between owners and residents to maintain a safe community, which are breached when serious hoarding raises fire safety, sanitation, or infestation concerns.  

“This seminar was both an eye opener and a means to create dialog for property owners,” said Jeff Smith, President of the NJAA.  “We are glad we could provide valuable and practical advice on creating a healthy environment for all residents at apartment communities.”