31 Days of Fair Housing (Part 4)

I KNOW that April only has 30 days and April is Fair Housing Month, but we started early. so don't miss a single day-get the rest at http://aptdynamics.com/blog-posts

Day 16

  • Who are you saying’s not a service dog?

How do you answer a resident’s question when asked why someone has a pit bull, or over-sized animal, or other animal that doesn’t meet our pet guidelines but they have it as a service animal?  It’s a difficult situation, since you cannot talk about a resident’s disability with another resident!  Puts you RIGHT in the middle!  The safest response might be:

  • We enforce our breed restrictions for pets, but our normal restrictions don’t apply to service animals.  (THEN DON’T SAY ANYTHING ELSE! Less is more in this case!)

Note:  Service animal owners still have to obey certain rules.  Residents with service animals can be given a written warning if the animal disturbs others, is posing a threat to others, and/or causes considerable damage to the property.  If a service animal does ANY of these, please consult your Regional and begin with a written warning, and if need be, escalating to eviction, depending on the severity of the problem.  

Day 17

  • YIKES! Hoarding!  Hoarding can be associated with a disability.  That said, we don’t have to allow hoarding, but in some cases we do have to handle it as a disability.  To prevent that, it is really critical to do our quarterly preventive maintenance in every apartment and to note any problems of growing clutter before they can even become hoarding issues.  If the Maintenance Team observes cleanliness issues and growing “stuff,” they should immediately notify the Manager, and the Manager should take action before it becomes hoarding.  If it has already escalated (it can happen fast!), Managers should get input from your Regional on how best to handle it. 

Day 18

  • More about HOARDING!

Even if a hoarding resident IS found to hoard related to a disability, we may still initiate eviction and terminate their leases if:

  • The hoarding is a threat to the health and safety of others and the health and safety issues cannot be addressed through a reasonable accommodation; and/or
  • The hoarding causes significant damage to a unit and the resident will not reimburse the landlord for the repairs; and/or
  • The hoarding resident doesn’t cooperate with joint efforts between us and them to solve the hoarding problem.  E.g., we work on a time frame for them to hit a goal and they don’t make effort to achieve it and don’t communicate. Or they refuse to discuss the problem with us at all. 

Any ONE of these can allow us to initiate terminating their tenancy, but in all of these cases, please consult your Regional and discuss it before taking action.  Two heads are always better than one!

Day 19

  • If it is determined that a resident’s hoarding is in fact associated with a disability, take a step by step approach to helping them solve the problem.  The goal is to help them achieve a living environment in which they can live.  Work through the specifics with your Regional, but steps might include:
  • Document EVERYTHING!
  • Hold a home visit with the resident.
  • Being kind but matter of fact, identify the problems, such as increased risk of fire, code violation, blocked water heater and air filter, or other objective problem. 
  • Advise the resident of immediate and simple strategies for solving immediate safety issues, such as removing hazardous materials, fire risks, clutter in front of doors, getting rid of open food sources for pests, etc. Agree to a short time frame for these urgent safety risks.
  • In addition, work with the resident on steps for bringing the entire home into a livable state.  Set incremental, achievable goals, each with a date for completion.  Put it in writing and if possible have the resident sign it.    
  • Consider ways to assist, such as putting trash containers nearby temporarily, or offering to have staff help move items to dumpsters, or helping schedule Salvation Army or other service to help remove items. 
  • Inspect at each goal, and if needed, recalibrate. 

If the resident does not follow the plan and does not adequately communicate, then discuss next steps with your Regional.

With any and EVERY resident, please treat the “hoarder” with dignity and respect!  Don’t denigrate, talk down, or make them feel any more ashamed or embarrassed than they may already be.  It’s easy for us to see the problem, but may be overwhelming and humiliating to them, or they may not recognize that there is a problem. So in all respects, be kind!

Day 20

  • Don’t IGNORE potential hoarding!

I know sometimes our service team thinks, Oh, the office won’t do anything about this! Or the office team thinks, Oh, my list is so long, this can wait!  But there are a lot of risks to residents and property from hoarding, including:

  • Increased risk of fire, especially with lots of combustible materials
  • Increased risk of structural damage like sagging floors, ceilings, floor joists
  • Increased risk of disease, injury, and rodent and insect infestation (Thanks, Blair!)
  • Lack of regular maintenance can result in the lack of running water, heat or refrigeration;
  • Toilets or sinks may be unusable or inaccessible;
  • Stacked items become a falling or tripping hazard

And there are more! So make sure your whole team is aware and acts FAST when we suspect a hoarding situation!  Don’t delay, and definitely don’t ignore it!  It’s likely to get worse before it gets better!

Stay Tuned!