Keep It Clean... Or Lose Your Home Insurance


Insurance companies usually don’t poke around the inside of your home when they write up your home insurance policy.

But that could be changing, as insurers increasingly cite “hoarding” risks that cause people to trip over your stuffed animal collection or start home fires from flammable materials lying around the house.

There are a host of new reality TV shows, like American Pickers on the History Channel, that feature houses, barns, garages, and basements chock full of junk and the occasional antique or collectible that gets the show’s hosts all giddy and excited.

But what seems like potential treasure to some, is seen as an accident waiting to happen for insurance companies.

You can actually see where insurance companies are coming from. In a word, too much junk means too much potential for disaster.

So what exactly is hoarding, and how can it negatively impact your homeowner insurance? According to, "Compulsive hoarding and cluttering refers to the acquisition of and failure to discard a large number of possessions, which appear to be useless or of limited value, in an attempt to decrease stress and anxiety. This serious and prevalent problem can lead to eviction and homelessness."

Insurers see a litany of problems from having too much clutter in your home. According to the Mental Health Association, here are the big ones:

  • Safety Hazards. A cluttered house can limit mobility (causing falls) and can be especially hazardous to the elderly and disabled.
  • Health Hazards. Excessive clutter can lead to inadequate cleaning. Rotting food items can attract bugs and rodents, leading to health hazards. Reduced cleaning can also worsen existing allergies and breathing problems.
  • Fire Hazards. Clutter can block doorways and windows, making leaving a home very difficult. Boxes, paper, clothing and other items are extremely flammable and will add fuel to a fire.

Historically, insurance companies only inspect the outside of a home when conducting their due diligence. But that doesn’t mean they won’t revisit your account, especially if you’ve submitted a claim for a fire or flood and the on-site agent sees the condition of your house and pegs it as a hoarding hazard.

If your state has strict homeowner insurance laws, that scenario could lead to the immediate cancellation of your homeowner policy, usually under  a “bad exposure” statute. More likely, though, you’ll get a notice from the insurance company demanding that you clean up your home and remove potential hoarding hazards.

But why wait for that to happen? If you have a home that’s chock-full of potentially hazardous clutter, clean it up.

You just might be saving your insurance policy in the process.

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