JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Judy Spear lives in a Southside condominium community that has been plagued by a hoarder.
"You see it on TV and you think 'it isn't going top happen to me, in my neighborhood,'" said Spear, "but it is out there."
Spear does not live in the same building as the hoarder did but, like her neighbors, she sees and smells the problem.
"You could see across the back in her screened-in lanai," said Spear, "it was piled up in the sliding glass door about this high."
"It was disgusting," Spear added.
The state is now guardian of the owner and over the weekend, state protective services removed the piles of garbage. But it is not over.
"My concern now is for the protection of the association. Who is going to pay for this?" asked David Carmack.
Carmack is with River City Management, the homeowners association.
"We are talking about four feet of trash in this unit," he said.
And while the hoard of trash is gone, a walk through the unit reveals the ugliness of hoarding and a stench that is unbearable.
"She lived here with two dogs that never went outside," said Carmack, "and she was using the kitchen as the restroom."
The identity of the hoarder is being concealed for now, but Carmack said it has been a problem for years.
Over the past 15 years, the HOA had to levy two assessments totaling $125,000, about $10,000 per unit, to pay for termite repairs related to the hoarding.
"There's mold going into the other buildings, the rats, termites, they're all getting hurt by this," said Carmack.
It took three years to get a court order so the HOA can enter the unit; Carmack said the system needs to change.
"Code enforcement tried to help me, the police tired to help me," said Carmack, "everybody tried to help me but nothing could be done."
The HOA is now taking repair estimates. The question is who pays to restore the condo? State protective services or the other condo owners?
"That is what we really want to know," said Carmack, "it is not fair to the other owners."
Spear and her neighbors do not want to face another special assessment. They're glad, at least for now, their hoarding nightmare is over.
"It is quite a problem and it is very difficult to get it resolved," said Spear.
The author of "Buried in Treasures," said 2 to 5 percent of Americans may meet the criteria for being hoarders.
According to Mayo Clinic.com these are some of the signs and symptoms of a hoarder:
-Cluttered living spaces
-The inability to discard items
-Keeping stacks of newspapers, magazines or junk mail
-Moving items from one pile to another, without discarding anything
-Limited or no social interactions
FIRST FOR YOU:
If you or a loved one has symptoms of hoarding, talk with a doctor or mental health provider as soon as possible. However, as the condo residents discovered, once it becomes a neighborhood problem, getting rid of it is not easy.
First Coast News