Updated June 4, 2021
Reading time: 3 minutes
The dangers of hoarding can have a substantial impact on your everyday life and well-being. Studies show that as many as 14 million people in the United States are hoarders. If you or a loved one struggles with hoarding behavior, you could face many challenges.
Hoarders can have mental health issues and financial problems from spending too much on the items they accumulate. Another obstacle is the potential to have your claims denied or lose your homeowners insurance altogether.
Homeowners insurance for hoarders can be challenging to obtain and even more difficult to keep. If you’re looking for homeowners insurance, Insurify can help. It’s easy to compare up to a dozen or more quotes in seconds so you can save money and get the coverage you need.
Insurance is all about managing risk. You purchase homeowners insurance to protect yourself from the risk of fire, theft, vandalism, and natural disasters. However, hoarding can introduce you to dangers that your homeowners insurance policy may not cover.
When you hoard, paper, plastic, and other flammable materials can pile up. Stockpiling flammable items near heating vents, stoves, power outlets, or extension cords could start a fire. In the kitchen, hoarding food items and trash and the buildup of grease can also increase the chance of a fire.
Piles of newspapers, magazines, clothing, and other items can obscure water damage from broken pipes, roof leaks, or other sources of moisture. The longer it takes to resolve an issue, the bigger the problem can grow.
A plumbing leak or food waste could lead to mold and fungus growth. Damp spots can harbor mildew and support the growth of mold spores, which can travel throughout the house by airflow. It can make the house stink and introduce serious health risks.
Rotting food, leaky plumbing, and other waste can lead to dust, odor, and ammonia in your home, creating a serious air quality issue. A home’s poor air quality can make breathing difficult and cause respiratory problems to develop.
Cluttered trash and rotting food can attract insects, rodents, and other vermin. Cockroaches, rats, ants, and flies can spread bacteria and pathogens to the people living in the home. Pests can damage the walls, wiring, and foundation, creating structural damage.
An excessive accumulation of contents can make navigating a home difficult. Family members or visitors are more likely to trip or have objects fall on them. If someone gets hurt, you could have a lawsuit on your hands.
A hoarder’s home is overpacked with belongings, making some areas inaccessible. You may put off maintenance or repairs because you can’t get to the source of a problem.
However, delaying repairs to flooring, roof, plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems can lead to major issues that could have otherwise been prevented.
If you hoard items, you can block pathways and exits throughout your home. Blocked exits can make it difficult for you to get out of the house quickly. This puts you at an increased risk for injury and death if there’s a fire or another emergency in your home.
Excessive accumulation of items can also make it difficult for first responders to get into the house. According to the National Fire Protection Association, it’s a significant threat to firefighters as they fight fires and respond to other emergencies.
Besides the health hazards, a hoarder’s home can heighten risk and cause additional scrutiny from their homeowners insurance company.
If you don’t fix a broken pipe or roof leak, water damage can become extensive. This can lead to structural damage that requires more expensive repairs. It also creates a problem for your homeowners insurance because an insurance adjuster may not be able to tell the difference between pre-existing and new water damage.3
It can also be dangerous for an adjuster to walk through the home, making it difficult for them to find and inspect the damaged area. Hoarding cleanup can be costly and lead to delays in processing your claim.
If the adjuster determines that a lack of proper home maintenance played a role in the damage, the company may not approve your claim.
Another issue is not having enough insurance coverage. The more you collect, the more items you have to insure. Homeowners insurance limits coverage for personal belongings to about 50 to 70 percent of your dwelling coverage. Specific categories of items, such as jewelry or electronics, may also have strict limits.
That means if a fire or natural disaster damages your personal belongings, your homeowners insurance may not be enough to replace your items.
Homeowners insurance may not cover claims where hoarding is an issue. Your claim can be denied if the damaged area can’t be found or inspected because walking between rooms is challenging. Your insurer can deny the claim if the insurance adjuster determines the loss was because of the massive accumulation of belongings. The adjuster could also recommend your insurance policy not be renewed due to the home’s poor or unsanitary conditions.
Clutter, collecting, and hoarding are not the same. Compulsive hoarding is a mental health issue that is generally more common in older adults. In most cases, hoarding disorder involves disorganized clutter that makes it difficult to use living spaces as they were intended. Hoarding can occur on its own or as a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or depression. If you or a loved one shows hoarding symptoms, contact a mental health professional to discuss treatment options.
Hoarding affects more than homeowners. If you rent your living space and have a tendency to hoard, you could face eviction. The property owner may work with you to address the cleanup process and allow you to stay. However, if you can’t reach an agreement, remember that it’s best to avoid a court-ordered eviction. An eviction on your record can damage your credit history and make it difficult to find a new place to rent.
Everyone’s homes get messy or cluttered at times, and collectors don’t necessarily have hoarding disorder just because they own many things. Hoarding disorder is a mental illness that can take patience and encouragement to address.
There are many dangers of hoarding. Excessive accumulation of items can lead to fire, water damage, pest infestation, and home maintenance issues. It could also cause your homeowners insurance company to deny your claim or cancel your policy. It’s best for homeowners to deal with a hoarding situation before the insurance company demands you correct it.
Use Insurify’s home insurance comparison tool for your property.
Amy is a personal finance and technology writer. With a background in the legal field and a bachelor's degree from Ferris State University, she has a talent for transforming complex topics into content that’s easy to understand. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.Learn More