Hoarding: A Homeowner’s Nightmare

Homeowners InsuranceThe joy of collecting and exhibiting your possessions has been the foundation of many successful and rewarding hobbies. However, there is a point where it becomes a problem, when collecting becomes hoarding and spins out of control. As the American Anxiety and Depression Association outlines, the key difference between harmless collecting and dangerous hoarding is that the former brings joy and satisfaction, while the latter is intimately tied to anxiety and fear.

Hoarding and Home Ownership

This is tied to a variety of additional problems. Hoarding leads to an accumulation of miscellaneous items in amounts exceeding any acceptable norms, including the load-bearing rating of the property. While, for example, newspapers weigh little on their own, when amassed in massive stacks, they rapidly accumulate hundreds of pounds in weight. The situation can degenerate to the point where the house can become permanently damaged, such as when the floor collapses under the sheer weight of accumulated items.

Of course, the problems aren’t related just to engineering. Byzantine mounds and piles of random items greatly restrict the ability to move through a property and use it for its intended purpose. What’s worse, hoarding usually results in the environment inside the property rapidly degenerating, harboring vermin and posing a real threat to the health of the people living within. And should an emergency arise, no matter whether it’s a fire, a disturbance, or a medical need, the hoard will hamper or even prevent any intervention.

Impact on Insurance

Unsurprisingly, incidences of hoarding will affect both the insurance and the ability to make claims. Damage to property resulting from the accumulation of items can be interpreted as an expected result of hoarding, resulting in the insurance claim being rejected by the company out of hand. Although it is certainly possible to fight for an insurance claim and receive a payout, the legal costs of such a battle are not to be underestimated and the insurer will explore the issue in-depth, as Claims Management analyzes.

Of course, this assumes that there is an insurance policy to invoke. While many insurance companies will usually opt for a simple drive-by visual inspection of a property when approving the insurance contract, it is possible to lose the homeowner’s insurance policy in case hoarding is uncovered on the property. The less extreme, more common measure is a notice from the insurance company, requesting that the insured take steps to remove the hoard, eliminating the risks it poses to the property and the insured.

Avoiding the Issue

The simplest way to avoid problems with hoarding is to address the root of the problem: Removing the hoard using the services of a company specializing in hoarder clean ups, as well as ensuring that the hoarder seeks professional help from a qualified psychiatrist. Make no mistake: Collecting is great, cluttering is an annoyance, but hoarding is a well-known medical disorder that can be managed with the right treatment.

An ounce of prevention equals a pound of treatment, or in this case, a few hundred tons off the back of a property.

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