Hoarding is a difficult issue, with complicated solutions. If you are dealing with a neighbor or loved one who hoards it's important to understand the legal issues surrounding hoarding - what can and cannot be done.
Litigation around hoarding sometimes happens, but more often than not it is not because of the disarray of the property, but rather, the danger it presents to either children or pets in the home. If the hoarder lives alone without children or pets there are often fewer things that can be done legally. It typically rests on the city the hoarder resides in whether or not legal action will be pursued.
If the hoarder lives in a complex that is managed by a homeowner's association, sometimes the management company can get involved to try to help resolve the issue. The difficulty is in determining whether the person is hoarding or just a poor housekeeper.
Typically in community organizations the hoarder must first consent to having their property inspected. Condominium associations typically have CC&R's that provide for an inspection provision that allows the association to inspect and repair common areas surrounding the unit. If an inspection reveals health or safety issues the situation must first be documented. At this point, it might be possible to involve county or city health services and the fire department.
Understading that true hoarding is a mental illness is important, so that you can approach the person with compassion. Understandably, though, hoarding can still cause concerns for you as a neighbor - attracting animals, resulting in fire hazards or creating public health and hygiene violations.
Adult Protective Services can be contacted if you have a genuine concern about the person who is hoarding - their safety and health. Self neglect is a condition that Adult Protective Services will get involved in. You can reach San Diego County Adult Protective Services here.
Here is what Adult Protective Services says about the benefits of contacting them for help:
Benefits to reporting abuse
- The elder or dependent adult will be given options to keep him/her safe from harm
- The APS worker can link the client, family to needed community resources
- Unaware family members, friends can be alerted to step in to help
- The APS worker can find ways to help the caregiver handle stress
- In some cases, the abuse perpetrator can be prosecuted, lessening the harm to others
- The reporter feels relief that a professional is assessing the situation
Don't be afraid to intervene, but do so with compassion and caution. Hoarding is a complicated issue that typically requires a team of people to adequately and compassionately help the hoarder move into a more healthy and sustainable way of living.
Clean Earth Restorations are experts at hoarding clean up services. Call us today for an estimate or more information on how to proceed: