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Hoarders and Pest Control

By Chris Williams on October 21, 2015.

You may have a friend or relative that you think is a hoarder, or who has hoarder tendencies. Some of us are just slobs. We clean up when things get so bad that we are embarrassed to have anyone see the mess, but we have no problem kicking the stuff to the curb when it has to go. Hoarders, on the other hand, compulsively acquire things that to others seem to be useless junk. To hoarders, everything they save has great value. True hoarders are not lazy; they just can’t bring themselves to part with their belongings. Hoarders suffer from a mental health disorder that almost always requires expert intervention.

One out of Thirty in U.S. Are Hoarders

The Boston Housing Authority recently had a team take a closer look at the issue of hoarding in public housing. The team inspected 1,619 units and reviewed almost 9,000 inspection forms and control reports. They found that about 5% of BHA residents had hoarding issues. This is in line with the American Psychiatric Association’s estimate that 2 to 5% of the U.S. general population has a hoarding disorder. The Boston study team further determined that among the 5% of residents with hoarding issues, pest control service visits were more than doubled. It’s easy to understand why (see Clutter and Pests).

Picture yourself as a cockroach, or even a mouse. What’s not to love about the home of a hoarder? There are thousands of places to hide, layers and layers of belongings several feet high. You never have to worry about being out in the open. You can move wherever you want without being seen. And there’s no shortage of food — fast food containers and half-eaten food is everywhere, with more arriving all the time!

Pest Control is All But Impossible in a Hoarder’s Home

Now picture yourself as an exterminator called in to treat the home of a hoarder. How can you even do an initial inspection to find pest hiding places? If you could find pests in the layers of debris, how could you ever get insecticide to penetrate through all the stuff to reach the pests? Where could you safely place a mouse trap? Pest control in a heavy hoarder situation is just impossible. People should not have to live with pests. Unfortunately, when a hoarder has a pest problem that can’t be treated, neighbors suffer as well when pests migrate to other units.

In multi-unit housing, our first point of contact is the property manager who hopefully will work with the hoarding resident and his family to clean up and clean out the unit. A mental health professional and other agencies such as protective services, the health department, the fire department, and public works may get involved in resolving the hoarding issue. Unfortunately, hoarding doesn’t always have a good prognosis and despite intervention from a team of professionals, sometimes eviction is the last resort.

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