Health and safety fears over hoarding in Exeter council houses – with eviction a ‘last resort’

Hoarding council house tenants in Exeter could be evicted as a ‘last resort’ over fears the problem is a health and safety hazard.  

The excessive collecting of belongings has become such an issue for Exeter City Council that it has drawn up a new policy to deal with it.

There are currently 48 ‘live’ cases of hoarding being addressed with tenants – six of which are deemed to be ‘significant’.

Hoarding is recognised as a mental health problem. The authority says help is at hand and it will only consider eviction ‘if all other avenues have been exhausted’.

Councillor Laura Wright, lead for housing development and services, said: “Excessive hoarding has to be dealt with sensitively.

“Hoarding is a recognised mental health problem which affects an estimated two to five per cent of the UK population.

“However, hoarding can present a high risk of fire, personal injury and damage to our properties. It can also affect neighbouring households.

“We have a duty to ensure the safety of our residents and of neighbouring households, wherever possible.”

Cllr Wright said that engaging tenants in managing a hoarding problem effectively, with support from other agencies, is the best outcome. However, if tenants were unwilling to help tackle the issue and if it was representing a hazard, they could be evicted from the property as a last resort.

“Eviction would be the last resort under the new policy, only if all other avenues had been exhausted,” said Cllr Wright.

The council is planning to introduce a new policy for dealing with hoarding in its properties.

Risk of fire and blocking escape routes

A report will go before the council’s People Scrutiny Committee tomorrow (Thursday, June 6).

It highlights how excessive hoarding can contribute to health and safety issues; including risk of fire and blocking of escape routes, as well as contributing to underlying stress-related mental health problems.

Many people collect items at some point throughout their life, however, there are some people for whom collecting becomes an unmanageable pattern of behaviour.

If a tenant is having difficulties dealing with hoarding, the council’s housing team can work with them to plan and manage their own clearance or engage with an organisation to assist.

The report says how an enforcement-only approach can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety, as well as the tenant continuing to hoard or increase their behaviour. It can also lead to a lack of trust and engagement with housing staff in the future.

The report says how introducing a new policy would give the housing team clear guidelines and an understanding of how to tackle issues of hoarding on a day-to-day basis.

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