Yesterday, I met with the 8-member Advisory Council for my Community Advocacy Network (CAN). CAN is a statewide not-for-profit organization that I created to help educate people who live, work and serve in community associations about the laws and government agency mandates that impact their real property values and the way they operate those communities.
My Council had a lot to discuss over the course of an afternoon but one area that took up a lot of our time was creating our legislative agenda for 2010. What help could our legislators give to those of us living in community associations? Which problems could be successfully addressed by legislation and which are just the unfortunate byproduct of living in close proximity to other human beings?
One problem we discussed at length was a problem that many in the room had dealt with personally and without much success. What can and should a board do when witnessing the physical or mental decline of a resident who lives alone in a community association?
One of the symptoms of a person in this kind of decline is hoarding items in their home (years of stacked newspapers, rotting food, etc.) for which an insect or rodent infestation is the first tipoff to the board or a neighbor that something is amiss. Other symptoms may be a radical change in behavior (belligerent interactions with association employees, board members or other residents), change in appearance and other odd behavior (cooking on the catwalks), etc.
If a resident's behavior poses a threat to his or her safety as well as to the community as a whole there are legal steps you can take but none of them are quick or easy. Many boards don't know which governmental agencies to contact to help with an impaired owner. Elder Services comes to mind but often they are unable to resolve the issue long-term. Medicine may be the solution for some of these kinds of issues but a resident living alone may forget or refuse to take it. Often, the board does not have contact information for family members or those family members have no interest in getting involved.
Naturally, there are privacy issues that must also be considered when dealing with a sensitive problem like this. Overall there is no simple solution when dealing with a resident living alone who is in a downward spiral. Compassion, even in the face of outrageous behavior, is the first thing that is needed. However, a little help from the State to deal with these types of situations comes in a close second!
For more information about my Community Advocacy Network or CAN, please visit our website at www.canfl.com.