Hoarding is the act of collecting items of any description in an obsessive manner. A hoarder may collect newspaper clippings or notes they have written to the point where their apartment becomes completely stacked to the ceiling. They might collect items they find on the street and in garbage cans. The difference between hoarding and being a collector, like a stamp collector, is that hoarding is compulsive and has a negative impact on the quality of life of the person who is engaged in the behaviour, and this may cause serious harm to others.
The danger of hoarding stems from the impact storing large quantities of material has on a residential living environment. Items that are hoarded can be mixed with rotten food items and often become infested with rodents and insects. Rodent feces spread disease and become dry causing particles to float in the air. Stored materials can absorb moisture and become a perfect breeding ground for mold. The living environment can become malodorous and toxic. In a multi-dwelling environment the above noted problems may impact other residents.
Hoarding also creates a fire risk and access problems. The heightened risk of fire in a hoarding situation is obvious. Flammable items can be stacked close to electric heaters and piled high in the kitchen next to the stove. If the unit catches fire it can become extremely hot due to the amount of fuel that is available to burn. A hoarding fire is a challenge to put out and the smoke can be highly toxic.
Access to the unit is another problematic area. It can become impossible for maintenance workers to perform routine checks on HVAC and other important systems.