Code Compliance

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Code Compliance is open 8AM - 4PM Mon-Thurs and 9:15AM - 4PM Fridays.

703-324-1300
TTY 711

12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 1016
Fairfax, VA 22035

Jack W. Weyant, P.E.,
Director

Dangers and Health Risks

Excessive storage takes up the free space meant for food preparation, eating, sleeping, socializing, and living.  Walls, floors, and surfaces disappear beneath the piles making it impossible to clean and sanitize.  Utilities may not have proper clearances; and toilets, bathtubs, and showers can be inaccessible or not work properly leading to a more unsanitary living space.  Structures filled with excessive possessions face severe fire hazards and structural concerns.

Increased Risk of Fire

house on fire
Fire spreads rapidly through a house that is hoarded

  • The accumulation of combustible materials, such as newspapers, clothing and rubbish, can pose a severe fire hazard if stored too close to heat sources (i.e. furnace, electric panel, gas appliances, etc.).
  • The number of combustible materials, when ignited, creates an extremely hot, fast-spreading fire that is difficult to suppress.  
  • Escaping the home in a fire can be impossible due to blocked walkways, doorways and windows.  Hoarded structures often only have one way in and out of the structure, but at least two routes of travel should always be kept clear.
  • Occupants cannot escape through blocked egress windows because they cannot be opened or are not accessible (Note: occupants should be able to escape through an egress window within 5 seconds).
  • Hoarded structures often do not have working smoke detectors, or the smoke detectors do not have adequate free air space surrounding them.  Occupants, therefore, are not given ample warning when a fire occurs.
  • Public safety personnel access to the home can be hampered or blocked and put their lives at risk, too.

For more information on fire safety, please review these educational topics

 

Increased Risk of Structural Damage

heavy load on floor causing cracks in structural components
Sheer cracks to floor joists due to heavy storage on the floor above.

  • Stacked items are a falling or tripping hazard, which can injure occupants or public safety personnel.  In extreme situations, the stacks of stored items could become unstable and land on top of people trying to pass through the narrow aisles.  This could cause individuals to be trapped beneath the load possibly causing serious injury or the loss of life.
  • Overloaded floors or attics can cause permanent structural damage such as:
    • Sagging floors and ceilings,  
    • Cracked floor joists or roof trusses,  
    • Compromised bearing walls and  
    • In extreme cases, partial collapse of the structure.
  • As the free space in a home is replaced with excessive storage, unplanned burdens on the floor can exceed the structural design causing shear cracks in the floor joists or roof trusses, sagging floors and ceilings, compromised bearing walls and wall movement, and even broken footing.
  • Structural damage threatens the occupants, public safety personnel and adjacent buildings or townhouses.
  • Building and trade permits may be required to make emergency repairs.

 

Sanitation issues could occur

kitchen that is unsanitary
Unsanitary surfaces that could attract mice, rats, and other insect pests.

  • Walkways, counters, floors, and walls with moisture build-up can breed bacteria, mold, mildew and other microbes.
  • Unsanitary indoor surfaces could attract pests like flies, mice and rats, cockroaches, grain beetles, or meal moths.
  • The lack of regular maintenance can result in the loss of running water, heat, or refrigeration.
  • Occupants may not be able to take regular showers, have access to a working toilet or have facilities to wash their clothes.
  • Outdoor storage can allow mosquitoes to breed in standing water.
  • Pet waste can accumulate when animals are not allowed outdoors. In cases of extreme animal hoarding, breeding can get out of hand and the owner may lose control of where pets choose to relieve themselves.

 

Air quality issues & affect on health

air filter
Air filter clogged with dirt and hair.

  • Homes crowded with possessions to the ceiling do not have proper ventilation.  As air stops circulating, pockets of stale air form.
  • Moisture problems arise in structures that are not properly ventilated. Exposure to moist environments can cause a variety of health conditions, including severe allergic reactions and infections and in some cases “toxic mold syndrome.”
  • Structures that are not properly cleaned can lead to environments with abnormal levels of dust mites. Dust mite allergy symptoms can range from runny nose and sneezing to chronic coughs, respiratory congestion or severe asthma attack.
  • Urea is a waste product found in urine, and as it breaks down it releases ammonia into the air. In severe animal hoarding, there is an increased ammonia content in the air. This is a strong lung irritant, which can cause respiratory distress or failure.
  • Mice and rats can run rampart in hoarded structures, not only contaminating food with urine and feces, but they can assist the spread of hantavirus, leptospirosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV), tularemia and salmonella to humans.
  • Cockroach infestations can also cause chronic allergies and asthma in children and the elderly if not controlled.
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