Cluttered apartment houses – a threat to the residents

Roughly two out of every three residents in the country have accumulated unwanted items in the common areas of their apartment houses. This trend is noticed by Civinity Group that manages housing administration companies in various cities around Lithuania, whose employees annually clear out several dozens of cluttered basements, attics or other common areas of apartment houses all over Lithuania. Items stored in the common areas of the houses not only obstruct access to the utility infrastructure systems of the house but can also pose a threat to the safety of the residents.

‘From our experience in managing apartment houses all over the country, we find that many are facing the same problem – about 70-80% of the common areas in apartment houses are filled with unnecessary things. They pose a real fire risk and in the event of an accident, can prevent our specialists from quickly identifying the cause of the failure and removing it in a short time. They also make it more difficult to reach the installations and identify the signs of the failure early when carrying out regular maintenance of utility infrastructure systems in cluttered premises,’ said Vaidas Barakauskas, Director of Vitės Valdos representing Civinity.

According to him, there have been multiple cases when finding the cause of the failure was delayed by several hours due to a cluttered basement, during which the residents’ storages and their contents were flooded and there was no water supply in the house for quite some time.

Can turn into a fire source

According to Barakauskas, however, the biggest threat posed by cluttered common areas in apartment houses is to the safety of the residents themselves, for example, they can increase the risk of fire or make it difficult for the residents to successfully evacuate the house. The company, which administrates apartment houses in five cities around the country, estimates that there is at least one case a year where the piles of things in the basement or the attic of the house become a fire source.

‘There is a reason why the legislation requires to keep the common areas clear,’ explains Barakauskas. ‘Sorting out basements, attics or staircases is the responsibility of the residents themselves or the house administrator. Unfortunately, residents rarely do this – we find that we have to clear out basements or attics in apartment houses once or twice a month. Of course, the service is not free so in order to save money, the residents should simply maintain the order in the common areas.’

Tend to accumulate old junk

Civinity’s experience shows that people tend to accumulate old furniture, bicycles, various household appliances, building materials in the basements and attics; however, it is also not unusual to find worn tires, other car parts, plumbing equipment.

While the most common problem in Kaunas, Klaipėda or Palanga is cluttering of basements and evacuation exits with unwanted items, the residemnts of Vilnius Old Town tend to litter their attics. Often, the amount of litter accumulated in the attics of old buildings can reach several tons and endanger the durability of the roof structures.

People who accumulate the things usually dismiss the administrator’s requests to free up the space and do not want to take responsibility for their rubbish. So, when there is a direct threat to the safety of the residents, the obstructions have to be removed by the administrator.

Barakauskas notes that there are cases where, after being informed by the administrator that the unused things will be removed from the common areas, the residents rush to clean up themselves, however, they are often motivated by the desire to get rid of other unused items, so they bring more things to common areas and clutter them even more.

Untidy neighbours can become a common problem

Despite all that, most residents suffer from neighbours who, either intentionally or due to health problems, accumulate litter in their apartments, keep many pets or otherwise grossly violate hygiene requirements. For example, one Kaunas resident kept 30 cats in her bathroom, while another sheltered 17 dogs. In Palanga, an apartment administrator of an elderly resident has to take out a huge amount of rubbish every six months, which is brought there by the resident. Meanwhile, in Klaipėda, residents of one of the apartment houses were forced to contact not only the apartment administrator but also the National Public Health Centre and the police to deal with a sick neighbour who refused help and stored not just discarded items but also household waste in his apartment.  

In such cases, the entire community can suffer from unpleasant smell, rodent infestation or other pests. If the resident ignores warnings from the neighbours and the administrator, the only way to clear out the apartment is through a court order.

Civinity company group owns the following Lithuania-based housing administration companies: Senamiesčio Ūkis, Ozo Miestas, Būsto Valda, Debreceno Valda, Vitės Valdos, Klaipėdos Bendrabutis, Palangos Butų Ūkis, Kretingos Būstas, as well as the following Latvia-based housing and commercial property administration companies: AS Hausmaster, SIA CS Komercserviss, SIA Home Master, SIA Labo Namu Agentūra, SIA Jūrmalas Naimsaimnieks and others.