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Houston City Council Passes Hoarding Ordinance

Hoarding Ordinance

Source: Houston Chronicle, Houston Apartment Association, City of Houston

The Houston City Council has passed an ordinance that targets potentially dangerous cases of hoarding in apartments, townhomes and condominium communities. The Texas city started with multifamily housing because of the increased risk of endangering others.

The new law prohibits occupants from accumulating “objects or substances of a nature or in a quantity reasonably likely to create a hazard to the safety or health of an occupant of another dwelling unit on the same or a contiguous property.” The ordinance also clarifies circumstances under which police must obtain a warrant to enter a dwelling unit in response to a hoarding complaint, making it easier to deal with the problem. Under the ordinance, if neighbors become aware of or suspect a hoarding situation, they can call the police to check the “welfare” of the occupant. If a problem is discovered, the resident must cooperate with efforts to alleviate the problem, or be subject to daily fines of up to $500.

With the number of reported hoarding cases on the rise, municipalities are attempting to mitigate for the health and safety concern of both immediate and neighboring residents. Extreme cases of hoarding have contributed to severe infestations and fires.

Concerned with appropriated liability, residents and homeowner associations had pushed for the city to clarify how it would apply health and building codes in cases where a home is owned or rented. The city accepted suggestions from the Houston Apartment Association to ensure proper assignment of liability in rental housing. Significantly, the ordinance also authorizes the police or enforcement officer to consult with an approved mental health organization in appropriate circumstances.