Hoarding can be a personal, family and a public problem. Among family members, hoarding behavior can often be a point of great tension.

Hoarding becomes a public problem when the extent or nature of the hoarding poses a health and safety risk to others, including animals. At this point, local public health, fire or building departments and local humane societies may or must take action. Landlords may take legal action if the hoarding is so extensive as to violate the lease by posing health and safety risks to neighbors or significant damage to the property.

Some government agencies and landlords try to work with the person who hoards before taking formal legal action. In some cases, however, hoarding may trigger an immediate legal action because of the serious risk they pose to public health or to at-risk children, dependent adults or animals.

When does hoarding require emergency action?

Different public agencies have different criteria for taking immediate action. It is essential for everyone working with an individual who hoards to understand their partner agencies' legal obligations and restrictions. For example, a local health department may take legal action at a different stage than a mental health professional, or an animal protection agency for example.

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