What is Hoarding?
Hoarding disorder is characterized by difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of value. The behavior usually
has harmful effects—emotional, physical, social, financial, and even legal—for the person suffering from the disorder and family members. For people who hoard, the quantity of their collected items sets them apart from people with normal collecting behaviors. They accumulate a large number of possessions that often fill up or clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that the space is no longer usable.
Signs of Hoarding
Hoarding is most common in older adults, but can affect people of all ages, races, nationalities, educational and socio-economic levels. Hoarding may be identified through the following signs:
- Excessive accumulation and storage of items, both inside and outside the home
- Limited access to get around inside the home
- Fully or partially blocked windows and doorways
- Insect and rat infestations
- Storage of rotting food or used food containers
- Neglect of home maintenance or non-working utilities (such as heat, running water, sewer, refrigeration)
Although less common, animal hoarding adversely impacts the health, welfare, and safety of people, animals, and the environment.
Animal overpopulation in a home can lead to waste accumulation, as well as inadequate food, water, and veterinary care for the pets.
If you observe animal hoarding, please contact Animal Services
at 703-777-0406 or submit a suspected hoarding case on Loudoun Express Request.
Public Health & Safety Risks
Hoarding cases can result in conditions that increase the risk of fire, structural damage to the home, and disease or injury to the hoarder, household members, and the community.
Increased Risk of Fire
Collecting combustible materials, such as newspapers, cardboard boxes, clothing, and garbage can pose a severe fire hazard. When ignited, these materials can create an extremely hot, fast-spreading fire that is difficult to suppress. This can result in more extensive damage during a fire emergency.
Resident's escape from the home and public safety access to the home can be hampered by blocked hallways, doors, and windows.
Increased Risk of Structural Damage
When the volume of hoarded items becomes extremely heavy, structural damage can threaten occupants, public safety personnel, and adjacent buildings.
Overloaded homes can cause permanent structural damage, or in extreme cases, partial collapse of the structure.Examples of structural damage may include:
- Sagging floors and ceilings
- Cracked floor joists or roof trusses,
- Compromised walls
Increased Risk of Disease, Injury, and Infestation
Storage of hoarded items and lack of regular home maintenance and cleaning can lead to unsanitary living conditions and increases the risk of disease. Toilets and sinks may be blocked by accumulated items, making them unusable or inaccessible. Accumulated garbage can lead to rat and insect infestations that affect the home and the community.