COACH's Pop Quiz!

Q: After getting complaints from neighbors about noxious odors emanating from a particular unit, you discover that a resident has stacks of newspapers obstructing doors and windows, dirty dishes and open food containers, and piles of clothing and other debris strewn throughout his unit. Although the resident claims that he has a disability, you may refuse his request for an extended deadline to remedy the unsanitary conditions. True or false?


A: False. Fair housing laws may require you to extend the deadline to allow the resident to remedy unsanitary conditions inside the unit.

The resident’s statement that he has a disability and needs more time to clean the unit qualifies as a request for a reasonable accommodation. Follow your community’s policies and procedures for handling reasonable accommodation requests. Depending on the health and safety risks involved, you may not have to grant the request, but you do have to take it seriously by responding formally and promptly.

In the March 2020 lesson, Fair Housing Coach tackles the challenging issue of resident hoarding. In multifamily housing communities, extreme cases of hoarding can pose serious health and safety hazards—not only to anyone living in the affected unit, but also to neighbors who may share walls, ceilings, floors, hallways, and even HVAC systems. Potential problems include fire hazards, mold and other environmental dangers, pests and vermin, foul odors, and even structural damage.

Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to detect because people with a hoarding problem rarely seek help on their own. By the time it’s discovered, the problem may be so out of hand that your first impulse is order the resident to clean up immediately or move out.

But that approach could land you in fair housing trouble. Hoarding disorder is a recognized mental health impairment, so the resident is likely to qualify as an individual with a disability under fair housing law, triggering your responsibility to try to work out a reasonable accommodation to allow him to continue to live there.

The March lesson, “Proceed with Caution When Responding to a Hoarding Problem,” is available to subscribers here.