Hoarding has become an increasing topic of conversation throughout the restoration and insurance business. Defined by the Mayo Clinic as “the excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them,” hoarding can affect a person’s health, personal relationships and can lead to serious depression and in extreme cases death. This obsessive accumulation of contents leads to questions such as what is covered by insurance in a loss, and what extreme costs are involved with removing them.
Content manipulation in any loss situation is an extensive and costly procedure. The risk involved with moving a customer’s items is high and holds a large amount of liability. In a “normal” home these possessions are perused and listed out as to current condition, those that can be saved or restored, and those that are damaged beyond repair and need to be discarded. That being said, in a hoarding situation, contents are accumulated in unfathomable quantities and the process of managing and sorting through things becomes incredibly costly and time consuming, and can eat up a customer’s loss coverage rather quickly.
Not only is content manipulation in a hoarding scenario an almost insurmountable task, but the challenges only increase when dealing with the mental situations of the home owners. These customers have excessive emotional attachment to possessions; extreme discomforts letting others handle their items, and difficulty managing daily activities. Brought on by a number of factors, (OCD, alcohol abuse, loneliness, ADHD and genetics), hoarding leads to limited, to no social interactions and shame, and makes rationally sorting these items a near impossible task.
In the event of a loss to the home, such as water or fire damage, speed is imperative to saving a structure. The goal of restoration is to return a property to its original condition prior to suffering damage, at a cost significantly below replacement. In hoarding households this challenge becomes arduous. Hoarding is an ongoing and growing problem, and one that will continue to be scrutinized and discussed in the world of insurance.