More Than Just a Mess

Posted by – Dale Mathes, Code Enforcement Officer

Hoarding has become a hot topic.  It is the subject of at least two cable TV shows where professionals team up with friends and relatives of a hoarder to try to help them. However, in real life it takes more than friendly persuasion and an hour of TV time to solve the problem.

Hoarding is not laziness or packrat-type behavior.  Instead, it is a type of obsessive compulsive disorder that results in people acquiring a large assortment of items and failing to discard what is actually useless or of little value.  Their living spaces then become so cluttered that they can’t be used for their intended purposes.

Unfortunately, there are times when hoarders become a neighborhood problem, particularly when the collection of “stuff” spills over from the inside to the outside of their home.  Often the Code Enforcement Division is called upon to remedy the problem.  Realizing that the situation involves behaviors that the hoarder often cannot control, we take a slow and even response to attempt to convince the person to clean up their property.

Sometimes this is not enough and we must take the next steps involving tickets, court appearances, and even court ordered clean ups.  This approach is always a last result as it is very costly for the City and causes emotional distress for the hoarder.  Unfortunately, within the last five years, several properties in Auburn Hills have been ordered by the Court to be picked up.  Multiple commercial dumpsters filled with debris have been removed from at least three locations during that time.

Hoarding is a serious, personal problem for a small segment of the population.  When their disorder becomes a problem affecting the entire neighborhood, we are called upon to handle the situation.  We do not do it for entertainment in front of the TV cameras, but for the good of the community.