Hoarding in Boston
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 instance:
- 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.
Hoarding usually violates several City and state housing codes. For example, 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.