Owning a home as a hoarder comes with some challenges, especially if you ever need to file a homeowners insurance claim. It’s important to understand how your coverage works in these unique situations in order to make sure you and your belongings aren’t at risk.
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 you and the home, such as the size, the structure and upgrades. You must also disclose if you have any pets and have had any previous insurance claims in the last five to seven years. The insurance company also reviews your insurance score when creating a quote for your policy.
However, there’s usually no interior inspection of the home. In some cases, the insurer may send someone to do an exterior or drive-by inspection of the home. But unless your porch or yard are already overflowing with your personal property, there probably won’t be a red flag to the insurer at this time.
The risks of hoarding
Even with an approved policy, insurance claims may not be easily achieved if you’re a hoarder. There are several risks that come with hoarding, and a homeowners insurance policy does not always cover them.
- Deferred maintenance. It’s common for hoarders to put off maintenance of certain parts of their home simply because they’re inaccessible. But if a major issue occurs that could have otherwise been prevented, you’ll likely have the claim denied. This can include issues such as untreated water damage.
- Fire hazard. Hoarding can lead to an excessive amount 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 can also get 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.
- Liability issues. Visitors may be more likely to file lawsuits and medical claims in a home that’s overpacked with belongings. 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. The more hoarded, the more personal property to insure. A standard homeowners insurance policy covers personal belongings, usually up to 50% to 70% of the dwelling’s coverage amount. There are also dollar limits on specific categories, like jewelry and electronics. You may need to add a personal property floater to increase your policy’s coverage amount.
How hoarding affects the insurance claims process
Filing a claim may come with some difficulties when you’ve been hoarding in your home. 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 him or her to fully inspect any damage that has occurred. Additionally, the adjuster may determine that the hoarding keeps you from using the space as it’s intended.
Regardless of the damage’s root cause, 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. 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. If you have a mortgage on your home, you must have coverage. So it’s important to keep up with ongoing repairs.
Frequently asked questions
Is hoarding covered by insurance?
Hoarding may not be covered by insurance if you haven’t kept up with standard maintenance of your home. In this situation, you may have a claim denied if the cause is determined to be routine wear and tear or an overall lack of maintenance.
Additionally, you need to make sure your belongings are adequately covered by your personal property insurance. Create a home inventory checklist so you know what you have and can estimate a dollar amount that you need covered. Also categorize your belongings in case your policy has a cap on certain types of items, particularly high value possessions like jewelry, artwork or antiques.
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 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 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 on the 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. Experiencing anxiety or uncertainty when trying to get rid of an item, for example, is a common red flag. You may feel overwhelmed or embarrassed when visitors are over, or even suspicious of having people in your home and near your things. You may also start to feel the impact of your possessions on other aspects of your life, like your finances, relationships and health.