Hoarding is a mental illness defined as the excessive saving of items that others may view as worthless, leading to clutter that disrupts living or work spaces. Hoarding can lead to the accumulation of biohazardous material, including human and animal waste, mold, and rodent droppings. Cleaning up a hoarding situation requires protection and the proper equipment, including HEPA vacuums, air filtration masks, goggles, gloves, and HAZMAT suits. Biohazardous material must be disposed of properly at a solid waste facility. Hoarding can escalate quickly, leading to difficulty in living and taking care of personal hygiene, and can attract rodents and other pests. Biohazards found in hoarding situations need to be dealt with accordingly to prevent severe illness or death. Various resources are available about hoarding cleanup, including warning signs, differences between hoarding and clutter cleanup, and the hazards of hoarding.
In 2013 the latest DSM was released, DSM-V, and defined hoarders as a person who, “excessively save items that others may view as worthless. They have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces,” and says it occurs in about 4% of the population.
Hoarding is a mental illness that can lead to further health complications. Due to the nature of hoarding, it causes the accumulation and buildup of clutter, trash, papers, and other items that eventually become obstructive to the normal way of life. This then affects the quality of living for the hoarder and their families. Many times, this buildup includes bio-hazardous material. When it comes time to clean up a hoarding situation, it is important to be aware of the bio-hazardous that come with it and how to remove them.
Hoarding can escalate the disrupting the living space very quickly which causes a difficulty living and taking care of one’s own personal hygiene. Passageways become blocked in the home and oftentimes hoarders cannot access certain parts of their home like bathrooms. In severe cases, hoarders will resort to using buckets to defecate in. Without access to proper hygienic tools, bodily fluids and waste can accumulate in the home and can cause serious health issues. These biohazardous body fluids will be an issue that needs to be dealt with during cleanup.
Along with human waste, animal feces are often found in hoarding situations. Often, hoarders accumulate trash which includes food that is left to rot. This food and trash can grow mold and be a hazard unto itself but is a gateway to a larger concern – rodents. Rodents are attracted to the messes that come with hoarding and love to make nests from the papers, plastics, and other materials found in the hoarder’s home. These rodents then leave their feces throughout the home which is a biohazard to anyone around. Rodent droppings carry diseases that can cause severe illness and in some cases death.
Biohazards are founding in almost every hoarding situation and need to be dealt with accordingly. When cleaning and removing bio-hazardous material, protection and the right equipment is important. Using a high-efficiency particle arresting vacuum (HEPA) is a good way to vacuum any solid rodent droppings or waste. A HEPA vacuum has the highest efficiency filters which will keep the bacterial particles from mouse droppings from entering the air you breathe.
When disposing of bio-hazardous material, it is important to use protection and the proper disposal bags. Use a tightly sealed plastic bag to wrap any solid material and take it to the local solid waste facility. Always wear air filtration masks; the stronger the filter the better. Bacteria in mold and feces can easily become airborne and can then be inhaled. Furthermore, goggles, gloves, and full body HAZMAT suits are needed to prevent any contact with the biohazardous waste.
Below are several more resources about hoarding clean up.
For landlords, maneuvering around the complex issues concerning hoarding and tenant rights can be tricky. Because of the connection between hoarding and mental illness, your tenant, by law, is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). One wrong move, and you could face a lawsuit.
As a landlord, everything and anything that happens on your property becomes your problem. Hoarding affects over one million people in the US in some capacity, which means that as a landlord there is a high likelihood that one of your tenants may hoard. Due to hoarding being recognized as a mental disability, hoarders are protected under the Fair Housing Act and cannot be evicted for the act of hoarding. Though they do have rights as a tenant, if the hoarding causes a breach in the lease, that may be grounds for eviction. Many times, hoarding may cause emergency exits to be blocked, old food to attract rodents, and cause damage to the apartment or home – this would be a breach of the lease.
Hoarding is a severe problem for a large amount of people around the world. It tends to be first-world nations like the United States that have greater incidences of hoarding. This is likely because people here have acquired disposable income. The more you learn about hoarding, the more you realize that you do not have to have disposable income to become a hoarder. People often collect free and found items as part of their hoard. Over the past 50 years, the number of people who are hoarding has increased exponentially.