loss of living space.
At the 2012 National Fire Protection
Association Conference and Expo, Ju-
dith R. Dicine, Practitioner In Residence
at the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal
Justice and Forensic Science at the Uni-
versity of New Haven described the dif-
ference between a hoarder and a collec-
tor as a “hoarder has so much stuff that
the rooms they’re putting it into have lost
their functionality completely.”
Hoarding creates a number of health
and safety issues for the occupants and
raises coverage issues for insurers. There
are trip and fall hazards, fire hazards, the
presence of rodents and reptiles, as well as
an inability to identify any leaks or struc-
tural issues with a property since so much
of the area is hidden and inaccessible.
Since there isn’t access to toilets and
showers, it’s hard to know where occupants have been bathing and going to the
bathroom. One mold inspector described
a condo where neighbors had been complaining about the stench from a unit.
When he went in, the inspector found
that the resident had been using the bathtub as his toilet.
“There are a few challenges when insuring a hoarder,” explains Anna Bryant
of State Farm Insurance. “First, it is rare
that we identify a person is a hoarder
when reviewing a new policy application. There is typically no interior home
Vanessa lived in a large house in an upscale neighborhood. From the outside her home looked like the rest of the neighbors’, but the inside was a different story. The windows were covered and
inside, papers, boxes, trash, knick-knacks, old mail and a
thousand other items were piled floor to ceiling in every room.
They covered every counter in the kitchen, overflowed into
the sink and the stove. The bathtub in the main bathroom was
stacked full of magazines. Her son and daughter had finally
moved out of the house, unable to live in the dirt and stench.
Her husband still lived in the house, cooking their frozen TV
dinners in a tiny microwave because the oven had been filled
with scraps of paper and other items years earlier.
Vanessa hadn’t showered in months
because the bathtub wasn’t useable. Instead she took a sponge bath in the sink.
At holidays, instead of hosting family dinners, her brother and his family
would just leave their holiday gifts on
the side porch. Vanessa wasn’t always a
hoarder, but as she got older the hoarding got worse.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, hoarding
behavior may present on its own or be
a symptom of other underlying conditions such as obsessive-compulsive
disorder (OCD), obsessive-compulsive
personality disorder (OCPD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD)
and depression. Frequently, hoarding
tendencies will appear early in life, but
since parents can often control the level
of clutter in a child’s room, it may not be
as apparent until the person reaches the
mid-20s or 30s.
Individuals who hoard may exhibit a
number of different behaviors such as an
inability to throw away possessions; indecisiveness about what to keep or throw
away; severe anxiety when attempting to
discard items or when people touch their
belongings; and an obsessive fear of running out of an item. There are also functional impairments that can affect personal relationships and create financial
difficulties, health issues and an extreme