Hoarding is the compulsive act of collecting a large amount of possessions that can consume a living space and cause many dangers for the homeowner. Risks from hoarding include fire hazards, liabilities, structure damage, obstruction of emergency pathways, offensive odors and health concerns.
Fire hazards: excessive flammable materials including old newspapers, plastic and trash increases the likelihood of a fire starting and spreading much faster than it otherwise would without excess material everywhere.
Liabilities: trip hazards occur in hoarding situations where the homeowner or emergency crews stumble/trip amid many possessions. Too much outdoor material can also be a liability where a visitor might get injured and file a claim against the homeowner.
Structure damage: a greater number of claims could result from rooms and attics that are filled with excess stuff leading to severe structural damage. Electrical, heating, plumbing and roofing damage are usually ignored for a longer period of time producing delays in maintenance and repairs. Too many contents can also hide certain problems like water damage, mold and roof leaks.
Obstruction of pathways: access can be very difficult if there are obstructions in the way, especially in the case of fire and other emergency situations. In order for fire crews to get to the source of a fire, check for occupants in danger, and for the occupants themselves to get out in case of emergency, pathways need to be as clear as possible. To understand the severity of obstructing pathways, it is estimated that hoarding conditions only account for 1% of fires, but 25% of fire-related deaths. Hoarding conditions can be so severe that firefighters cannot get to the occupants in time to save their lives, which can also lead to firefighter injuries.
Health concerns: in several hoarding situations, unsanitary conditions apply due to lack of plumbing repairs, impaired air quality and an increase in insect and rodent populations that violate health codes. Animal hoarding is another problem that causes serious health hazards to the occupants and animals in the home. Animals can experience starvation, disease, and health issues from an accumulation of feces and the decomposition of other animals’ deceased remains.
While hoarding affects a small portion of the population, most of us will encounter a hoarding situation at some point. Learning patience and offering professional assistance is a must when working with a hoarder.