Cluttering, hoarding, accumulated "stuff" piled high and wide, a condition referred to as a Collyers syndrome (see E.L. Doctorow, Homer and Langley and reality show Hoarders), is the basis for a nuisance eviction case brought routinely by landlords.

Extreme hoarding involves the unwillingness or inability to part with items that would usually be discarded-old newspapers, magazines, plastic bags. I have also seen piles of old bicycle parts, rope, wire and wood scraps. These undifferentiated piles, sometimes head high, turn apartments into caves, dark and infested with small paths separating rooms. Often rooms are totally cut off from the rest of the apartment, back bedrooms or kitchens being sealed shut with wall to wall, floor to ceiling stuff.

The good news is that these cases almost never result in an eviction if the tenant commits to and actually clears out the clutter. My representation always starts with a visit to the apartment so an attorney, not the tenant, determines what has to be done. Most times it is professional clean-up companies that get the job and depending on the severity, can cost several thousands of dollars.

As long as the process of cleaning begins and a completion date is in sight Judges will afford the time required to get the job done.

I have "lost" only one Collyers case. A client in the Bronx refused to un-clutter because, as he said: "no one can tell me what to do in my apartment". He was evicted!

Most clients say the clean-up changed their lives for the better. Isolation, shame and depression also went out the door with the stuff.

William J. Gribben

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