Hoarding Policy

Release Date: 
Aug 29, 2011

GHI POLICY ON HOARDING

Approved by Board of Directors August 18, 2011

Overview

 GHI’s governing documents require members to maintain safe and healthy housing units at all times. GHI has experienced cases of hoarding behavior by members.  Hoarding of objects or animals, and related situations, violate the bylaws and the mutual ownership contract by failing to maintain a safe and healthy environment.  There is also a cost to GHI membership when these conditions exist and must be dealt with by staff; in some cases, excessive staff time is required to monitor and mitigate hoarding situations to ensure safe living conditions for GHI members. 

The GHI governing documents also define the process for handling complaints against members for violating rules.  In extreme cases, the problems presented by hoarding behaviors need to be dealt with outside the established complaint procedure, in order to protect members’ health and safety. 

GHI wishes to adopt a policy on hoarding in order to:            

-          Respond appropriately when dangerous or unhealthy conditions are present

-          Minimize impacts on neighbors and other members due to complications from hoarding behavior

-          Provide guidance to staff regarding how to identify and deal with hoarding situations

 Discovery of Hoarding Situations

 GHI does not actively inspect homes for hoarding behaviors.  GHI performs routine inspections of the electrical and plumbing, and may enter members’ homes for maintenance or emergency purposes.  Staff are encouraged to report potential hoarding situations if they are encountered.  In other cases, neighboring members may complain of odor, pests, or other conditions which may be related to hoarding behaviors.  The City of Greenbelt may also discover hoarding cases through their code enforcement, emergency response, or animal control activities, and City agencies are also encouraged to report these instances to GHI. 

 In all cases, no matter how discovered, if GHI has reason to believe that a hoarding situation may be present, it has the obligation to investigate further in order to protect cooperative assets and members’ health and safety. 

Guidelines for Determining Condition of the Home

 When a potential hoarding situation is reported or discovered, GHI staff will conduct an inspection of the unit.  In reviewing and recording the conditions present in the unit, the following information will be sought:

-          Are there immediate health and safety dangers present?  Potential examples are:

  • Access within the unit is greatly restricted; emergency access is hindered
  • Fire hazards are evident
  • Biohazards such as rotting food, animal or human bodily waste, or other unhealthy conditions are present
  • Infrastructure such as wall coverings, floor coverings, electrical systems, or plumbing systems are compromised or in danger of failure
  • Presence of excessive pest or rodent conditions

-          Are violations of city code, GHI rules, or other official documents present?

-          What is the current impact on this and neighboring units, and what is the potential impact if the conditions present are allowed to remain or deteriorate?

-          What is the outcome the current conditions could contribute to?

-          Is the member aware of the conditions of the home?  Does the member understand the potential impacts of the behavior on this unit and/or on other members?

-          Are there past recorded incidents of similar conditions in the home?  What direction is the trend?

 Following the initial inspection by GHI staff, a determination of the home’s condition will be made.  The determination indicates the level of hoarding behavior and its potential impact on the cooperative, and dictates the next steps to be taken.

 Condition Levels and Action Steps

Level I – Immediate substantial health and safety dangers are present; multiple violations exist and/or extreme accumulation is evident (refer to photos 7-9 on the Clutter Image Rating (CIR) assessment).  This level requires immediate action to safeguard health and safety and/or protect physical assets of the coop. 

 The member will be asked to immediately relocate to a temporary alternate living arrangement, at the member’s expense. Living arrangements made by the member(s) may not include parked cars, sheds on the property, or other inappropriate or unsafe locations.

  1. GHI staff will alert the member that counseling services and assistance in locating alternate housing are available through Greenbelt CARES (Any services which require payment will be at the member’s expense). GHI staff may also contact Adult Protective Services, Child Protective Services, and/or any agency that is deemed helpful and appropriate for the welfare of the member(s).
  2. The City’s Code Enforcement division (and Animal Control division, if appropriate) will be alerted to the situation.  If Code Enforcement considers the home unfit for human habitation and posts it as such, GHI will prevent the member from accessing the unit.
  3. The GHI Board of Directors may meet to consider immediate termination of membership.  In these instances, the complaints procedures can be expedited, and, according to the Bylaws, a formal hearing to determine the status of GHI membership will be held. 
  4. The formal hearing may result in immediate termination of membership, termination of membership with a stay of implementation, or some other action.
  5. If the membership is not terminated immediately, GHI Board and staff will determine the actions required to improve conditions and discuss resources which may be available to assist the member.  In order to return to the unit, the member must agree to a plan of action to improve the conditions in the home and address all violations.  GHI staff will work with the member to develop a plan of action to be approved by the Board and the member. 
  6. All expenses incurred to restore the unit to a healthy status will be born by the member(s), regardless of whether or not membership is terminated.
  7. Staff will monitor progress on a regular basis until all issues have been resolved.  Regular monitoring will continue with diminishing frequency until GHI staff are satisfied that the hoarding behavior and Level I or II conditions will not return. 
  8. If significant progress is not evident within 6 weeks from the date of the initial inspection by GHI staff, or if subsequent inspections reveal that progress ceases or is reversed, the GHI Board of Directors may reconsider the membership status. 

Level II – No immediate substantial health and safety dangers are present; multiple violations exist and/or extensive accumulation is present (refer to photos 4-6 on the Clutter Image Rating (CIR) assessment).  This level requires short-term action to address violations and long-term attention to assure conditions do not resume or deteriorate.              

  1. GHI staff will alert the member that counseling services are available through Greenbelt Cares (Any services which require payment will be at the member’s expense).
  2. The City’s Code Enforcement division (and Animal Control division, if appropriate) will be alerted to the situation.  If Code Enforcement considers the home unfit for human habitation and posts it as such, GHI will prevent the member from accessing the unit and appropriate alternate living arrangements must be made by the member. GHI staff may also contact Adult Protective Services, Child Protective Services, and/or any agency that is deemed helpful and appropriate for the welfare of the member(s).
  3. The GHI Board of Directors may meet with the member in a complaints panel, per the normal complaints procedures. 
  4. The complaints panel will attempt to determine the longevity and trend of the hoarding behavior.  The complaints panel and member will determine the actions required to improve conditions and discuss resources which may be available to assist the member. 
  5. The member must agree to a plan of action to improve the conditions in the home and address all violations.  GHI staff will work with the member to develop a plan of action and timeline to be approved by member and staff.  Staff will monitor progress on a regular basis until all issues have been resolved.  Regular monitoring will continue with diminishing frequency until GHI staff are satisfied that the hoarding behavior and Level II conditions will not return. 
  6. All expenses incurred to restore the unit to a healthy status will be born by the member(s), regardless of whether or not membership is terminated.
  7. If significant progress is not evident within 6 weeks from the date of the initial inspection by GHI staff, or if subsequent inspections reveal that progress ceases or is reversed, the GHI Board of Directors will meet with the member in an informal hearing, per the complaints procedure. 

 Level III – no immediate health and safety dangers exist.