Cat Hoarder in New York: Perfect Example of Syndrome's Effect on Home Values
The case of an upstate New York cat hoarder once again puts the complex problem of hoarding in the spotlight. But there's a serious consequence of hoarding -- aside from health and safety issues -- that can be learned here: how hoarding hurts home values. Irene Vandyke, 50, of Wright, N.Y., could face charges after authorities found 67 dead cats wrapped in plastic bags in her freezer and 99 live cats stuffed in crates that were stacked floor-to-ceiling in her home. Her house was condemned and deemed unfit for human occupancy, the Times Union newspaper in Albany reported.
People who were aware of the situation in Vandyke's home said they tried to help her and remove the animals from her house, but she repeatedly denied their offers. Kerrie Colin, manager of the Animal Shelter of Schoharie in Howes Cave, N.Y., where the live felines were taken for medical treatment, told the Times Union that Vandyke was resistant to previous intervention efforts. "The minute anyone tried to take her cats, she freaked out and threw them off her property," Colin said. "She definitely had a hoarder mentality. She's not a horrible person. She just needs help and counseling."
Authorities, however, told WRGB-TV in Albany that Vandyke was "cooperative" when officers arrived to remove the felines and "relieved to see the cats go." Authorities said they were tipped off to Vandyke's animal hoarding after a neighbor called to complain about the smell of cat urine and feces coming from her home. The live cats are recovering well at the shelter, Colin said.
The often-deplorable conditions of a hoarder's home such as this one is usually the biggest concern, but equally important is how the hoarding is dragging down the value of the home -- and neighboring properties. One Yahoo! columnist wrote that she and her family were trying to sell her grandmother's Victorian house after she died. It was worth $500,000, but because it was impossible to clear out the mounds of junk piled high inside, the family ended up having to sell it for $300,000.
The International OCD Foundation (hoarding is thought to be a symptom of obsessive-complusive disorder) says that hoarding can lead to structural problems in the home, causing it to become decrepit. That drags down its value and the values of neighboring properties. Rodent infestations can also spread from the home to neighboring homes, further dragging down values of every home affected. For landlords, hoarding can result in the loss of rental income when it becomes impossible for an apartment damaged by the effects of hoarding to be rented at market rate.
Also, homeowners insurance may be difficult for a hoarder to get or renew. If a homeowners insurance claim is filed, an agent may come to the home to assess the claim's needs. If the agent finds a hoarding situation at the home during the visit, the claim -- or the entire homeowners insurance policy -- could be denied.
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