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Hoarding in Boston

Find out how our department handles hoarding in the City.

Hoarders have trouble getting rid of their belongings — their homes are often filled top to bottom with clutter. Over the last five years, we’ve seen a rise in hoarding cases. We usually get four to five reports each year.

Safety hazards of hoarding

When we get a hoarding complaint, we go to the house to do an inspection or a wellness check. In extreme situations, emergency responders are sometimes called out as well. Hoarding creates many health, fire, and safety hazards.

  • Clutter and garbage can block pathways and make it tough to climb stairs. This can make it more difficult to put out a fire or escape during a fire. Too many combustible materials — like newspapers — are also a fire hazard.
  • Homes often don't have working smoke alarms, and we often find bad wiring and heating systems.
  • Piled up old food and garbage is a health hazard. If there are rodents and other pests in the home, they can spread disease. There’s also often a buildup of animal waste.
  • Some homes don’t have usable bathrooms and plumbing. Many times, hoarders don't have a safe place to sleep, sit, or eat.

What happens during an inspection

We make a note of the code violations and let the property owner know. We give the property owner some time — usually 30 days.

We may refer the case to another agency, for example:

  • If the resident is elderly, we also contact elderly services for help with additional resources, or try to help them find financial help.
  • If the resident has mental health problems, we'll contact social services or the Public Health Commission and the Mayo Clinic at Mass. General Hospital.
  • If there are animals involved, we may contact Animal Control.

Common violations

Hoarding usually violates several City and state housing codes.

Typical violations include:

  • not keeping common areas clean and free of garbage
  • putting public safety and health at risk because of clutter or pests, and
  • the piling up of garbage that offers a food source for rodents.

BOS:311 service requests

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