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Subject: Noxious odor from 1st floor unit
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PamK6
(Illinois)

Posts:4


08/23/2021 11:37 AM  
We own a 2nd floor condo and the owners below us are not only hoarders, but allow their 2 pitbulls to urinate and defecate in their unit. The owner has told me that she uses ammonia to clean up after the dogs, which makes the odor even worse. The hallway smells beyond belief, especially on hot humid days or after a good rainfall. The biggest issue is the building was built incorrectly. Their unit supplies the air conditioning and heating for the main hallway. The Association has done nothing about this noxious odor except clean the carpeting in the hallway when we complain. That doesn't last long because the son then walks out and tracks the dog feces onto the carpet.

The odor from their unit is impeding into ours. We have air fresheners but it's not helping much. When we have taken off a light switch plate, you can really smell their odor from down below. It's like imbedded in the 2x4's or the drywall. I've gone to the city about this and they tell me to go to the County Health dept. I go there and they tell me to see the City building inspector.

Has anyone else been through this type of experience and what was done to resolve the issue? Would have the duct work cleaned in the main hallway help any? Would that help in my unit? Is there anything legally that can be done to get them to clean themselves up?
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1806


08/23/2021 11:57 AM  
Call your local housing/minimum housing inspector (town or county employee). To me, that's your best option.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2600


08/23/2021 12:09 PM  
I agree with Kelly. Public health officials have more authority than the association does. In addition, hoarding is often considered a mental health/disability issue, and associations have significant restrictions on what they can and can't do in such cases since Fair Housing laws come into play - and may explain why it appears that the HOA in this case is not doing anything (ie., there may be lots going on, but neighbors won't know about it).

Here is an interesting article on dealing with hoarders in a condo or HOA:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/02/26/how-handle-hoarders-condo-or-homeowners-association/

This may be behind a paywall, but you may be able to read the first few articles for free.

AugustinD


Posts:1920


08/23/2021 1:46 PM  
Things sound bad enough that this might qualify as a "nuisance" in violation of the covenants or possibly the municipal code. If government health officials seem unhelpful, and if you feel you cannot sell the condo unit except at a great loss, then I would consult an attorney specialized in condominium law.

I am sorry that things are this bad and you are being denied 'enjoyment of your home.'
PamK6
(Illinois)

Posts:4


08/23/2021 1:59 PM  
We had contacted the ordinance officer originally. He suggested that if they (police) could get into the unit, they could deem it a hoarding situation. Well, recently the unit had a small kitchen fire. The Fire dept went there and did absolutely nothing. The ordinance officer had told us that the police/fire dept would contact the county health dept due to the hoarding and no one did anything. Everyone passes the buck in this small town. Would having a company like Servicemaster come out to clean the air ducts in the main hallway help at all?
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2600


08/23/2021 2:24 PM  
Posted By PamK6 on 08/23/2021 1:59 PM
We had contacted the ordinance officer originally. He suggested that if they (police) could get into the unit, they could deem it a hoarding situation. Well, recently the unit had a small kitchen fire. The Fire dept went there and did absolutely nothing. The ordinance officer had told us that the police/fire dept would contact the county health dept due to the hoarding and no one did anything. Everyone passes the buck in this small town. Would having a company like Servicemaster come out to clean the air ducts in the main hallway help at all?



Cleaning the air ducts probably won't help since they're not the source of the odor, they're just conducting it.

The reason everybody is passing the buck is either that they either don't have the authority or tools to do anything, or that dealing with hoarding issues is a long, drawn-out process that's often unsuccessful. Hoarding as a mental health issue is stubbornly resistant to treatment. Cleaning up the home is temporary because the hoarder goes right back to accumulating junk and filth.

If the board members in your community asked me, I'd tell them to talk to the association attorney, develop a plan for dealing with this (keeping in mind Fair Housing laws) and then start working the plan. What the board can do will depend what your governing documents say they can do. This may include fining if that's allowed and if the board has adopted and published a fining schedule. If you're lucky, they'll have one and your state will allow foreclosure for non-payment of fines. But this can be hard to do even if your state allows it, and judges be uncooperative if they believe that the HOA is targeting the homeowner unfairly.

But the board has to step carefully, because being on the losing end of a Fair Housing complaint can be an expensive mistake that everyone in the community will pay for. I'm sure the folks who drafted the Fair Housing legislation never imagined it would be used to protect people who actively harm their neighbors, but that's the world we live in.

If you have the money, it may be worthwhile to talk to a lawyer yourself about what your options are. You may have more options than the HOA does as far as something like suing these folks' behinds.


AugustinD


Posts:1920


08/23/2021 2:34 PM  
I think it's important to note that the forum here has seen no evidence of a disability issue that might protect the occupants of the unit emitting the noxious smells. The occupants may simply be slobs. If there is not disability, than Fair Housing laws (protecting for one those who are disabled, within reason) are not going to come into play. Even if the occupants are disabled, I am not persuaded that this means the occupants should be granted a reasonable accommodation of destroying the enjoyment and value of another person's unit.
AugustinD


Posts:1920


08/23/2021 2:40 PM  
Posted By PamK6 on 08/23/2021 1:59 PM
The Fire dept went there and did absolutely nothing.
-- I do not think the fire department is tasked with addressing noxious odors. The taxpayer pays the fire department to address only certain things and so on.

-- Any hoarding going on does not seem to be the problem here. I think the problem is these folks are slobs and not addressing the odor.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2600


08/23/2021 6:07 PM  
Posted By AugustinD on 08/23/2021 2:34 PM
I think it's important to note that the forum here has seen no evidence of a disability issue that might protect the occupants of the unit emitting the noxious smells. The occupants may simply be slobs. If there is not disability, than Fair Housing laws (protecting for one those who are disabled, within reason) are not going to come into play. Even if the occupants are disabled, I am not persuaded that this means the occupants should be granted a reasonable accommodation of destroying the enjoyment and value of another person's unit.



Our attorney discussed hoarding as a recognized disability during one of their training sessions:

https://www.realpmsolutions.com/hoarding-protected-disability-fair-housing-act
https://rentalhousingjournal.com/did-you-know-hoarding-is-a-disability-protected-by-fair-housing/
https://coophousing.org/blog/hoarding-is-a-disability-handle-cautiously/
https://blog.realmanage.com/hoarding-in-condo-associations-what-can-a-board-do-about-it

I'm taking the OP at her word that this is a hoarding situation. Often bad smells are the first clue neighbors have that hoarding is going on, followed by bugs and vermin.

I don't think any sort of "reasonable accommodation" is on the table here - only that the board has to tread more carefully than they would with an owner who is just messy or is violating the covenants in some way.

If children are living in the home, a call to the local child protection services may produce results, but the OP should be sure of her facts before taking that step. Or if she evidence that the dogs are being mistreated, a call to the local SPCA may get attention.





AugustinD


Posts:1920


08/23/2021 7:07 PM  
I think the cautions CathyA3 offers are appropriate and worth reviewing.
Posted By CathyA3 on 08/23/2021 6:07 PM
Our attorney discussed hoarding as a recognized disability during one of their training sessions:

https://www.realpmsolutions.com/hoarding-protected-disability-fair-housing-act
https://rentalhousingjournal.com/did-you-know-hoarding-is-a-disability-protected-by-fair-housing/
https://coophousing.org/blog/hoarding-is-a-disability-handle-cautiously/
https://blog.realmanage.com/hoarding-in-condo-associations-what-can-a-board-do-about-it
I would point out two things, though. One because I think it's relevant. The other to point out an error that galls me.

Only the coophousing.org site's article references any case law. The one court decision the article cites is Rutland Court Owners v. Taylor, DC Court of Appeals, 2010. See https://casetext.com/case/rutland-court-owners-v-taylor . The facts: Around 2007 bedbugs were taking over a certain cooperative apartment building. Professional exterminators were hired. Owner-shareholder Taylor had a number of diagnosed mental illnesses. As an apparent symptom of these mental illnesses, Taylor maintained a cluttered apartment. The clutter was problematic for proper extermination. Also Taylor was concerned about the use of chemicals in his apartment. At first Taylor limited the exterminators to treat only his bedroom. Fines began. The Board voted to "revoke" Taylor's shares. (I think the latter is co-op lingo for, "The Co-op is evicting you.") The appeals court agreed with the lower court that the Co-Op had jumped the gun and could have found (and in fact did find) ways to ensure Taylor's apartment was free of bedbugs that accommodated his mental illness.

Here's the galling error, which I think several here at hoatalk would have noticed without my pointing it out. Two attorneys, one with 44 years of experience serving co-ops, wrote the coophousing.org article. From the article:

"As early as 1960, an appellate court concluded that hoarding was the product of other mental disabilities. In that case, the hoarder was suffering frombi-polar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and a basic mood disorder. The hoarder needed to present the testimony of his psychiatrist in court to prove the disability and that the disability caused the hoarding, whereupon the court found that his condition was protected by the Fair Housing provisions of the Civil Rights Act, and he was entitled to reasonable accommodations [see Rutland Court Owners, Inc., v Taylor, District of Columbia Court of Appeals, 997 A.2d 796 (1960)]. The facts, in this case, are instructive to cooperative boards and their managing agents.

1960?

Of course not. The Fair Housing Act did not become law until 1968. The Rutland decision was issued in 2010.
PamK6
(Illinois)

Posts:4


08/24/2021 5:58 AM  
I'm pretty sure the woman is not mentally sound. She point blank told me that sometimes she doesn't feel like getting out of bed, so she lets the dogs go potty in the house. We have dealt with mice three times over already and the association has paid each time to have pest control come out. I've been in their unit and it is definitely a hoarding situation. I don't care if they hoard but the dog odor is pathetic. We hung up 3 bamboo odor eater bags in the hallway and it helps just a little. The Association has fined them numerous times for not picking up the dog poop in the yard and has also billed them for the carpet cleaning of the main hallway.

To make matters worse, the condo itself is in a trust. The current owner's mother owned it. She went to a nursing home and passed away. No one paid the nursing home bill and now the condo has a $132K lien on it. The condo, in its current state isn't even worth $70K. The current owner lives there with her 30 year old son, who also isn't "all there" and is part of the Black Pistons gang so many people are scared of him. When we first looked at our unit, it was in December and cold out so there was no odor. But now, almost 5 years later, the odor has taken over.
JohnT38
(South Carolina)

Posts:794


08/24/2021 6:06 AM  
I don't know if this would help or not but could you file an animal abuse claim with someone like the Humane Society or some other organization?
PatJ1
(North Carolina)

Posts:295


08/24/2021 6:26 AM  
City/County Health Dept. and possibly Animal Control are viable options.

Have they paid the HOA fines? Are they paying the HOA assessments?

In NC we can not foreclose for fines, but can place a lien. Don't know about Illinois. With as many liens that are already in place, additional liens won't seem to matter.

However, if they are behind in assessment payments, the HOA should look into foreclosure.

You are in a tough situation.

Board members are volunteers. Many have no idea what they're doing. Educate them. Don't beat them up.
MichaelS56
(Minnesota)

Posts:300


08/24/2021 4:36 PM  
Go to open Mic at the city council meeting and let them know that the police and the fire department are not doing their job in notifying the proper organization.
AugustinD


Posts:1920


08/24/2021 6:39 PM  
Posted By MichaelS56 on 08/24/2021 4:36 PM
Go to open Mic at the city council meeting and let them know that the police and the fire department are not doing their job in notifying the proper organization.
Instead of this, I advise emailing one's City Councilor.

I suspect the police and fire department are likely doing their job here. The proper approach is likely a civil (that is, not criminal) lawsuit.
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