Are Hoarders Part of a Protected Class? Exploring the Legal Framework

Are hoarders part of a protected class? This is a question that many individuals have been asking themselves lately. Hoarding has been a topic of concern for quite some time now, as it is a mental health condition that affects many people across the globe. However, whether or not hoarders are part of a protected class remains up for debate.

As with any mental health condition, hoarding is a complex issue that affects a person’s life in a variety of ways. From relationships to career prospects, hoarding can have significant impacts on an individual’s overall well-being. However, despite being classified as a legitimate mental health condition, hoarding is not given the same level of protection as other conditions.

This has led many to wonder whether or not hoarders should be considered part of a protected class. After all, individuals with other mental health conditions are often protected under the law and can receive accommodations in various aspects of their lives. So why is hoarding any different? This is a question that needs to be answered by society as a whole.

Definition of Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding disorder is a mental health condition that affects an estimated 4-5% of the population. It is characterized by persistent difficulty in discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. This difficulty leads to the accumulation of clutter that interferes with the normal use of living spaces, compromises health and safety, causes significant distress, and impairs daily functioning.

Hoarding disorder is not the same as collecting items or being messy or disorganized. Collectors typically have a specific interest or theme for their collection, while hoarders accumulate a wide range of items and have difficulty deciding what to keep or discard. Being messy or disorganized may be a symptom of hoarding disorder, but it is not a diagnostic criterion.

  • Hoarding disorder affects men and women equally.
  • It typically begins in adolescence or young adulthood, but can emerge at any age.
  • Hoarding disorder can occur alone or be accompanied by other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Diagnostic Criteria for Hoarding Disorder
1. Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.
2. This difficulty is due to a perceived need to save the items, a fear of losing them, or a sense of attachment to them.
3. The accumulation of possessions results in the cluttering of living spaces to the extent that their intended use is compromised.
4. The hoarding causes significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
5. The hoarding is not attributable to a medical condition (e.g., brain injury, cerebrovascular disease, Prader-Willi syndrome) or another mental disorder (e.g., intellectual disability, OCD).

Hoarding disorder is a serious condition that can have significant negative consequences for the individuals who suffer from it, as well as their families and communities. Understanding the nature of hoarding disorder and its diagnostic criteria is an important step in improving the lives of those affected by this condition.

Legal Protections for Certain Groups

There are numerous legal protections in place to prevent discrimination against certain groups of people, such as those based on race, gender, and religion. These laws are designed to promote equality in various areas of life, from education to employment to housing. However, some have questioned whether individuals who hoard could be considered part of a protected class.

Hoarding as a Protected Class

  • Currently, there are no federal laws protecting individuals who hoard from discrimination.
  • However, some states have recognized hoarding as a disability and have extended protections to individuals who hoard under disability laws.
  • For example, in Illinois, hoarding disorder is recognized as a mental disability, and discrimination against individuals with hoarding disorder is prohibited under the Illinois Human Rights Act.

Reasonable Accommodations for Hoarders

Even without specific legal protections, individuals who hoard may be entitled to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires employers, landlords, and other entities to provide reasonable accommodations that allow individuals with disabilities to perform essential job functions or access housing and services.

If hoarding disorder is recognized as a disability, individuals with the disorder may be entitled to reasonable accommodations to help them manage their symptoms. For example, a landlord may be required to waive a “no pets” policy to allow a hoarder to keep a service animal that has been prescribed by a healthcare provider to help manage anxiety and other symptoms associated with hoarding disorder.


While there are currently no federal laws protecting individuals who hoard from discrimination, some states have recognized hoarding disorder as a mental disability. Additionally, hoarders may be entitled to reasonable accommodations under the ADA if hoarding disorder is recognized as a disability. As understanding of hoarding disorder grows, it is possible that more legal protections will be put in place to prevent discrimination against individuals who struggle with this disorder.

State Human Rights Act
Illinois Recognizes hoarding disorder as a mental disability
Hawaii Discrimination based on a physical or mental disability is prohibited
Rhode Island Prohibits discrimination based on physical or mental disability and requires reasonable accommodations to be made

Table: States with hoarding disorder-related protections under their Human Rights Acts.

Discrimination in Housing

While hoarding disorder is not a protected class under federal or state law, individuals with this disorder may still experience discrimination in housing settings. Hoarding disorder can lead to unsanitary living conditions, structural damage, and potential fire hazards, which may raise concerns for landlords or property management companies. However, this does not give them the right to discriminate against someone with hoarding disorder.

  • Landlords or property managers may attempt to use hoarding disorder as a reason to deny someone housing, but this would be considered discriminatory under the Fair Housing Act.
  • Individuals with hoarding disorder are entitled to reasonable accommodations under the Fair Housing Act, such as providing extra time to clean or allowing the use of a dumpster for disposal.
  • Reasonable accommodations may also include psychological or mental health services to assist with managing the disorder and improving living conditions.

It is important for those with hoarding disorder to be aware of their rights and know that they are protected under the Fair Housing Act. If someone with hoarding disorder feels they have experienced discrimination in housing, they can file a complaint with their state’s fair housing agency or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for assistance.

In addition to the legal protections in place, it is also important for landlords and property managers to educate themselves on hoarding disorder and work with tenants to develop reasonable solutions for managing the disorder while still ensuring a safe living environment. Collaboration and communication can go a long way in preventing discrimination and creating a mutually beneficial living situation for all parties involved.

What landlords can do: What tenants can do:
Educate themselves on hoarding disorder and potential accommodations Be open and honest with their landlord about their disorder and their needs
Work with tenants to develop reasonable solutions for managing the disorder Take responsibility for maintaining a safe and clean living environment
Provide support for tenants seeking mental health services Stay committed to ongoing treatment for the disorder

By working together and understanding the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants, discrimination can be prevented and a positive living situation can be achieved for those with hoarding disorder.

Reasonable accommodation for disabilities

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations in the workplace to ensure equal access and opportunity. Hoarding disorder is recognized as a mental health condition and may be considered a disability under the ADA.

Reasonable accommodations may include modifying work space, adjusting work schedules, or providing specialized equipment to accommodate an employee’s disability. In the case of hoarding disorder, reasonable accommodations could include allowing an employee to have a private workspace or providing assistance with organizing clutter.

  • Modifying work space: This may include providing a hoarder with a private workspace or enabling them to work from home. The key is to ensure that the employee is able to perform their job effectively while also addressing their disability.
  • Adjusting work schedules: Depending on the severity of the hoarding behavior, adjusting work schedules may be necessary to accommodate an employee’s needs. For example, an employee may benefit from a flexible work schedule that allows them to attend therapy or other medical appointments.
  • Specialized equipment: In some cases, specialized equipment may be necessary to help employees with hoarding disorder to maintain an organized workspace. For example, an employee may benefit from a filing cabinet or desk organizer to help them stay on top of paperwork.

It’s important for employers to approach this issue with sensitivity and understanding. While hoarding disorder can be disruptive to the workplace, it’s often a symptom of an underlying mental health condition. By providing reasonable accommodations, employers can support their employees while also ensuring that the work environment remains safe and productive.

Here is a table summarizing some potential accommodations for employees with hoarding disorder:

Accommodation Description
Private workspace Provide the employee with a private workspace to minimize distractions and reduce anxiety.
Flexible work schedule Allow the employee to adjust their work schedule to accommodate therapy or other medical appointments.
Organizational tools Provide specialized equipment (e.g. filing cabinet, desk organizer) to help the employee stay organized.
Support programs Connect the employee with support programs or counseling services to help them manage their hoarding disorder.

Overall, providing reasonable accommodations for employees with hoarding disorder is not only a legal obligation, but also a compassionate and responsible approach to supporting employees with disabilities. By addressing this issue proactively, employers can help create a more inclusive and supportive workplace for everyone.

Mental Health Stigma

One of the biggest roadblocks to receiving help for hoarding disorder is the mental health stigma prevalent in society. Mental illness and disorders are often not taken seriously, and those who suffer from them may be seen as weak or strange. Hoarders are no exception, and they may face ridicule and shame from friends, family, and society as a whole.

This stigma can make it difficult for hoarders to seek help, as they may fear judgment or rejection. It can also prevent them from being seen as part of a protected class, as mental illness is often unfairly stigmatized and dismissed.

  • Many people still view mental illness and disorders as a personal failing or weakness, rather than a legitimate medical condition that requires treatment.
  • Some may assume that hoarders are simply lazy, dirty, or disorganized, without realizing that hoarding disorder is a complex and debilitating condition.
  • Even healthcare providers and mental health professionals may not fully understand hoarding disorder and its impact on those who suffer from it, which can lead to misdiagnosis or inappropriate treatment.

It is crucial that society shifts its attitudes towards mental health and recognizes the legitimacy of hoarding disorder as a real and serious condition. This can involve educating people about the realities of hoarding disorder, promoting empathy and understanding, and reducing the stigma and shame that often surround mental illness.

By dismantling mental health stigma, we can help hoarders access the support and resources they need to overcome their disorder and lead fulfilling lives.

Recognizing Hoarders as a Protected Class

Part of reducing mental health stigma involves recognizing hoarders as a protected class under the law. In some cases, hoarders may face discrimination and unfair treatment due to their disorder, just as people with physical disabilities or other protected characteristics may experience. For example, a landlord may refuse to rent to someone they perceive as a hoarder, or an employer may pass over someone due to their hoarding disorder.

However, hoarders are not currently recognized as a protected class under federal or state anti-discrimination laws. This can make it difficult for them to seek legal recourse when facing discrimination or unfair treatment.

Pros Cons
Recognition as a protected class could provide legal protections for hoarders, reducing the potential for discrimination and promoting access to housing and employment. There may be concerns about defining hoarding disorder as a disability, particularly as it is not well-understood by many people.
Protecting hoarders could be seen as a step towards greater recognition and respect for mental health and disability rights. Some may argue that hoarders are not entitled to protection under the law, as their disorder is largely self-inflicted and can be seen as a personal issue rather than a systemic problem.

Ultimately, the decision to recognize hoarders as a protected class will require careful consideration and collaboration between lawmakers, mental health professionals, and hoarding disorder advocates.

Ethical considerations for professional organizers

Professional organizers play a vital role in helping individuals and families declutter and organize their living spaces. However, when working with individuals who are hoarders, there are ethical considerations that need to be taken into account.

If you are a professional organizer working with hoarders, here are some ethical considerations to keep in mind:


  • Professional organizers are bound by ethical standards to maintain client confidentiality. When working with hoarders, it is essential to ensure that any information shared by the client is kept confidential.
  • It is also important to maintain the privacy of the client’s home and living space. This is especially crucial when working with individuals who are ashamed or embarrassed about their hoarding behaviors.

Respect for Autonomy

Professional organizers must respect their client’s autonomy and make sure that any decisions made about decluttering and organizing are made by the client themselves. When working with hoarders, it is important to remember that their hoarding behaviors may be symptomatic of underlying mental health issues, and pushing them to declutter could be counterproductive.


The principle of non-maleficence requires professional organizers to avoid causing harm to their clients. When working with hoarders, this principle means being mindful of the emotional distress that the client may experience during the decluttering process. Professional organizers should work at a pace that is comfortable for the client and be mindful of any signs of distress.


The principle of beneficence requires professional organizers to act in their client’s best interest and promote their wellbeing. When working with hoarders, this principle means taking the time to understand the underlying causes of their hoarding behaviors and developing a plan that is tailored to their individual needs.


Professional organizers must have the necessary skills and expertise to work with hoarders effectively. This includes a thorough understanding of the psychology of hoarding and an ability to work collaboratively with mental health professionals when necessary.

Clear Boundaries

Boundary Description
Time Limits Professional organizers must set clear time limits for their work with hoarders to avoid becoming overwhelmed and to ensure that the client is making progress.
Financial Limits Professional organizers must set clear financial boundaries with their clients and ensure that the client is aware of all costs before work begins.
Scope of Work Professional organizers must set clear boundaries around the scope of their work and ensure that the client understands what is included in their services.

Professional organizers working with hoarders must also be clear about their own boundaries and limitations. This includes setting clear limits on the amount of work they can take on, as well as being clear about their role in the decluttering process and the limits of their expertise.

By considering these ethical considerations, professional organizers can provide effective and compassionate support to hoarders on their journey towards decluttering and organizing their living spaces.

Treatment options for hoarding disorder

Hoarding disorder is a serious psychological condition that affects millions of people around the world. Hoarders of any kind understand how tough it is to overcome the urge to collect and keep things. Sometimes, the desire to hoard may be so strong that it interferes with normal life activities, such as personal hygiene, cooking, and sleeping. Thus, it is essential to consult a therapist or a mental health professional at the earliest.

Here are some treatment options for hoarding disorder:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This is a psychotherapy technique that aims to change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with hoarding. Under the CBT, a therapist will work with the hoarder to identify what triggers their urge to hoard, and then together work to restructure thought patterns.
  • Support Groups: Support groups provide helpful resources for hoarders and their loved ones. It is a safe place to share the disorder’s experiences, find community support, and seek advice from those who have overcome that phase of life.
  • Motivational Interviewing: This technique involves a series of structured conversations designed to help the hoarder move from ambivalence to motivation and ultimately move towards long-term recovery from hoarding disorder.

It is worth noting that each hoarder is unique, and so the right treatment plan will vary depending on their specific situation. Nonetheless, with the combination of therapy and medication, recovery is possible, and the individual can live a normal life again.

While there is no concrete recovery timeline for hoarding, the recovery is gradual and may depend on several factors such as the severity of the disorder, the willingness to change, and the social support available. Below is an overview of the potential treatment timelines:

Phase Duration
Initial evaluation 2-3 sessions
Treatment Planning 1-2 sessions
Active Treatment 12-26 sessions, spread over several months
Maintenance Phase Regular check-ins, as per the therapist’s advice

Ultimately, the most crucial aspect of succeeding in the journey towards overcoming hoarding disorder is having a trusted and supportive medical professional who can offer support and compassionate guidance throughout the whole process.

FAQs: Are Hoarders Part of a Protected Class?

1. What is a protected class?

A protected class is a group of people who share common characteristics and are legally protected from discrimination under federal and state laws.

2. How many protected classes are there?

There are several federally protected classes, including race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and age.

3. Are hoarders considered disabled?

Hoarding disorder is recognized as a mental health condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but it does not automatically qualify a person for disability benefits.

4. Can hoarders be discriminated against in housing or employment?

While hoarding disorder itself is not a protected class, hoarders may be protected under disability or housing discrimination laws if their hoarding is severe enough to affect their daily lives.

5. Can landlords refuse to rent to hoarders?

Landlords are prohibited from discriminating against tenants with disabilities, including hoarding disorder, but they can still deny tenancy if the hoarder presents a safety hazard or causes damage to the property.

6. Can employers refuse to hire hoarders?

Employers are prohibited from discriminating against job applicants with disabilities, but they can refuse to hire hoarders if their hoarding poses a safety risk or affects their job performance.

7. Are there any specific laws protecting hoarders?

There are no federal laws protecting hoarders specifically, but they may be protected under the Fair Housing Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for reading about whether hoarders are part of a protected class. Although hoarding disorder itself is not a protected class, hoarders may be protected under other disability and housing discrimination laws if their condition affects their daily lives. It is important to understand the difference between hoarding disorder and personal preference for clutter, as this can impact legal protections and accommodations. Please visit our site again soon for more informative articles.