Hoarders – these people frighten me from a risk management perspective. As a long-time insurance broker, I have personally seen the damage hoarders can do to your – or their own – property. Hoarding is a condition that is often an outgrowth of serious mental disorders, such as extreme depression and other issues I’m not qualified to discuss.
However, I am qualified to address the real, and in some cases just potential, consequences of hoarders. In a nutshell, from a landlord and homeowners insurance perspective, these situations are kindling waiting to be lit. Within our agency’s experience, we have had several losses involving hoarders, and the damage that is done is enormous.
The types of claims we see most often are Fires to homes and apartments, injury to tenants units in contact with hoarders, injury to vendors and service personnel (supporting the property) in contact with the hoarders, and health and even death, as hoarders often are shunned and ignored by other tenants or neighbors.
The objects hoarders collect usually has lots of flammable material: decades of trash, mail and newspapers & magazines that have never been tossed away, boxes of “stuff” which is full of plastic and paper from a lifetime of “collecting”, and racks & rows of you-name-it items that make absolutely no sense to anyone other than the hoarder. This condition not only develops the potential for fire but breeds the conditions – filth, basically – that invite vermin and cockroaches, as well as other damaging insects, to join the fun and spread more filth and potentially disease. And then the vermin leave urine and feces all over the premises, which add acute health issues to the situation for not only the hoarder but to anyone in contact with them.
Often, the hoarders are not “outted” until a Fire or other Property or Liability claim occurs on the premises. And, that can be too late. The fire happens, the liability claim is placed, and the property owner is looking at tremendous damages. Then, your insurance is non-renewed or even canceled mid-term, and your insurance costs are increased significantly enough to eliminate the positive cash flow (or even send you into a negative cash flow situation for several years).
About the only way to flush-out hoarders, in your properties, is to have regular inspections of the interiors of the property. And, be aware of the obvious signs of problems in a unit, which include:
- Long term tenants that tend to isolate themselves and who never seems to have service request or issues (they are taking care of situations themselves – or ignoring them, which is worse) so that the landlords or family members are unaware of the conditions;
- Tenants that seldom leave their premises (they often get food delivered to them, with boxes on top of boxes strewn through their homes);
- Frequent & sudden reports, by tenants in multi-unit occupancies, of vermin and insect invasions;
- Combativeness, or extreme defensiveness, with you (the landlord) or other tenants;
- In single-family units, an abundance of pets (sometimes, too many pets is a sign of neglect and not pet foster-parenting).
Watch your properties for signs of hoarding, and if you have property managers, ask them to make regular inspections of your property (at least twice a year). Don’t let a hoarder destroy your property or the value of it with their activities. If you must, ask their family members or social services to assist you in the treatment of their condition – or to move them out to other facilities. It’s your property: Protect it.