Code Compliance

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
Gabriel M. Zakkak

Fairfax County’s Hoarding Strategies: A Governmental Approach

people holding puzzle piecesBecause hoarding is a complex behavioral problem that creates a dangerous living situation to the individual(s) involved, it often requires a multi-faceted response.  Neglect or self-neglect associated with the elderly, children, or animals may require emergency interventions; while structures with overloaded support systems could pose immediate dangers to the occupants, first responders and the community.  

Significant staff resources and assets are required for even the most minimal involvement in an incident and working together ensures a faster resolution to the dangers and dilemmas that owner/occupants face.  To provide an intervention that will benefit the both the owner/occupant and the community, a compassionate, professional, and coordinated approach must be developed.

An Overview

The Fairfax County Hoarding Task Force was created in 1998, as the first of its kind in the United States, in response to medical and fire emergencies occurring in hoarded structures, where occupants could not be removed quickly.  The idea was born as a way to combine the many resources within county agencies to provide a coordinated response to residential hoarding when it threatened life, safety, and property, as well as preventing deaths due to hoarding.

The Task Force combined the resources of code enforcement, first responders, medical and mental health professionals, social services providers, attorneys and private business owners.  Through regular meetings, the group balanced the rights of the individual against the safety of the community in developing strategies to ensure consistency, professionalism, and effectiveness when providing resources and assistance in hoarding cases.

In 2010, in part due to the success of the Hoarding Task Force, Fairfax County combined its code enforcement efforts and created the Department of Code Compliance (DCC).  Like the Hoarding Task Force, DCC was designed to accommodate a multi-enforcement code response, while taking on the lead role in combating hoarding issues around the county.  For this reason, in 2012, the Hoarding Task force was officially renamed the Hoarding Committee as it was no longer necessary to mobilize separate agencies.  Today, the Fairfax County Hoarding Committee continues to build strong alliances with DCC, other county agencies, and surrounding jurisdictions to strengthen Fairfax’s response to hoarding and be of assistance to other jurisdictions.

Fairfax's mission is to provide a forum for member agencies, educate the public, address safety concerns, and improve the quality of life for individuals, animals, and the surrounding community affected by hoarding situations.

Goals include:

  • Monitor the extent of the hoarding problem in Fairfax County and decrease the occurrences of severe hoarding cases.
  • Set a high standard for public service while investigating complaints in a timely manner, ensuring compliance with all enforcement codes, and applying county resources effectively and efficiently.
  • Protect lives and property and sustaining the health of the community.
  • Increase public awareness of hoarding and its dangers through outreach and education.
  • Ensure an integrated approach to the complex physical, emotional, and psychological issues of hoarding, which contribute to unsafe residential structures through reducing risk fasters related to neglect and self-neglect.
  • Identify, support, and provide intervention for people, who experience problems with hoarding. Where possible, assist the owner/occupant in re-occupying the dwelling once compliance and safety are restored.
  • Improve the management of hoarding cases after discovery to monitor bringing unsafe conditions into compliance.
  • Maintain an on-going dialogue between committee members to identify gaps in service, evolve current needs, and conduct best practices.
  • Investigate and share information on the problems related to hoarding from different professional and community perspectives.
  • Address incidents in a structured, systematic, coordinated, and consistent manner.

The Hoarding Committee is comprised of several agencies within Fairfax County Government and the surrounding jurisdictions in an advisory capacity.  This committee provides advice and recommendations to department directors, who commit resources, make decisions, and carry out actions or activities as it relates to hoarding. 

Department representatives serving on the committee have the obligation to report back to their departmental heads, as well as ensure maximum effectiveness as a working team. Each participating department brings a specialty or discipline to the table that is not found in any other department. Below is a summary of these departments and their individual contributions to the Hoarding Committee. TTY 711, unless otherwise noted.


How to Create a Hoarding Task Force

It can be inundating to know where to begin tackling a hoarding problem in a jurisdiction, especially if no collaboration is already in place.  Often jurisdictions have identified a problem in their area, but do not have the resources in place to coordinate a response and do not know how to begin to change.  By clicking on the PowerPoint presentation below, you can read the necessary steps that Fairfax took to create their Task Force and convert it into an effective enforcement tool.  It is our hope that this will be helpful in allowing you to create your own Task Force.


Fairfax Virtual Assistant