Hoarding is a condition in which an individual has difficulty letting go of items due to the belief that they will need them in the future. Hoarding disorder affects around 2.6% of the population and is more common in those over 60 and in people with other psychiatric illnesses.

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Because hoarding can create cluttered and potentially dangerous living spaces, homeowners insurance companies may be reluctant to insure those who suffer from hoarding disorder or may limit coverage. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team has researched home insurance for hoarders to help you understand how to find the coverage you need.

How to get homeowners insurance as a hoarder

When you’re applying for a policy, homeowners insurance for hoarders is similar to any other type of homeowners coverage. You’ll need to provide some details about yourself and your home, such as the size, the structure and upgrade information. You must also disclose if you have any pets, and if you have had any previous home insurance claims in the last five to seven years, you should mention that as well. In most states, the insurance company also reviews your insurance score when creating a quote for your policy.

Hoarding is concerning to insurance companies because it can create unsafe conditions. Hoarding is primarily a liability concern, as guests may be more likely to fall and be injured in a home where an overflow of belongings makes movement difficult. However, hoarding can also make home maintenance difficult, meaning that your home could be more susceptible to damage if you cannot properly maintain it.

You may need to provide photos of the front and back of your home to your agent or insurance company to be approved for coverage, although there is not typically a required interior inspection of the home unless your home is of a certain value, like $1 million or more. If your hoarding extends into your yard, you’ll likely be asked to clean the area. You may need to tidy up before being issued a policy, or the company might issue your policy and ask for new photos showing that the area has been cleaned up after 30 to 60 days. If you cannot prove that the area has been cleaned after the allotted time, your policy may be canceled or nonrenewed.

The risks of hoarding

Even with an approved policy, hoarding tendencies could affect insurance claims. Several home insurance considerations come with hoarding, and a homeowners insurance policy does not always cover them.

  • Deferred maintenance. Hoarding can make maintaining a home more difficult. Not only could it be harder to see what needs to be maintained simply because of the number of items in the home, but certain areas may also be inaccessible. But if a significant issue occurs that could have otherwise been prevented, your claim could be denied. This can include issues such as untreated water damage.
  • Fire hazard. Hoarding can lead to large amounts of flammable material clustered in your home. According to the National Fire Protection Association, blocked exits can make it difficult to get out of your home if a fire does break out, and you may also be injured by stacked materials falling on you. Hoarding also makes it difficult for firefighters to navigate the inside of your home and rescue you and other occupants. This could lead to a fire causing more damage than it would if a home were less full.
  • Liability issues. Visitors may be more likely to be injured in a hoarder’s home, which can lead to injuries and liability claims. If someone gets hurt by tripping or some other type of accident, like objects falling on them, you could have a liability lawsuit on your hands.
  • Personal property values. Because hoarding inherently means you have more personal belongings, you may need more insurance coverage. A standard homeowners insurance policy covers personal belongings, usually up to 50% to 75% of the dwelling’s coverage amount. There are also dollar limits on specific categories, like jewelry and electronics. You may need to add a scheduled personal property floater to increase your policy’s coverage amount.

How hoarding affects the insurance claims process

Filing a home insurance claim may come with some difficulties for hoarders. In most cases, an insurance adjuster is required to come to the home and inspect the damage. Depending on the extent of the possessions inside, it may be hazardous for the adjuster to get through the home. It may also be problematic for the adjuster to fully inspect any damage that has occurred. Additionally, the adjuster may report back to the insurance company’s underwriting division regarding the state of the home, and you could be required to get rid of some possessions or face losing your coverage.

Regardless of the cause of the damage, an adjuster may see signs that proper home maintenance has been lacking. Mold, water damage and other hazardous side effects of hoarding may impact your ability to get your insurance claim approved, depending on whether your hoarding contributed to the damage. In that case, you may be responsible for paying any repairs out of pocket. Additionally, you may be required to make certain repairs or risk having your homeowners insurance policy cancelled.

Frequently asked questions

Is hoarding covered by insurance?

Damage caused by hoarding may or may not be covered by insurance, depending on the type of policy you have and the specifics of your claim. If hoarding contributed directly to your loss, your claim may be denied. If you do have hoarding tendencies, you may want to seek medical care for your condition. If you can tidy your home, you may be able to eliminate a lot of the issues that could lead to an insurance claim being denied.

What is the difference between hoarding and clutter?

Hoarding comes with a much more serious connotation than clutter, according to the International OCD Foundation. Clutter may be disorganized and spill over from storage spaces to living spaces, but it doesn’t usually impact the intended use of the room. Additionally, clutter doesn’t cause major stress or financial hardship. Hoarding, on the other hand, has a major impact on the homeowner’s life. Rooms often cannot be used for their original purpose, like cooking in a kitchen or sleeping in a bedroom. It may also cause emotional and financial distress for an individual and even impact personal relationships.

How do you know if you’re a hoarder?

Hoarding is a broad term, but there are signs that may indicate a problem. Hoarders have a perceived need for items that extend beyond that item’s normal use. For example, a hoarder may have far more plates than are necessary, but feels the need to keep the extras out of a perceived need for having more. Hoarders also tend to exhibit mental and emotional distress when faced with letting go of items. If you think you have hoarding tendencies, talk to a medical professional for guidance.