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Hoarders, Trash Keepers, Beware Proposed City Ordinance (UPDATED)

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Updated 4/16:The city council approved the ordinance unanimously. As the Houston Chronicle reports: The ordinance, which applies only to apartments, townhomes and condominiums, creates daily fines of up to $500 and clarifies when police can enter a property with a warrant.

Original story Last week the Houston City Council presented a proposed change to an ordinance that would levy a fine on people who hoard. Not just the grandma who keeps a huge collection of china dolls or the dude who can't throw away the last 650 issues of Playboy. We're talking about the folks you see on television, on the A&E show Hoarders, those folks who live in vermin-poop-infested lairs of funk and don't throw away old cartons of milk. Many have serious illnesses.

At least that's the image of the hoarder the city is presumably trying to clean up. Hoarding situations usually come about, according to a report by the Houston Chronicle, when people already have an unchecked mental disorder that can become more severe following a loss.

"Trauma from a great loss often triggers an escalation in hoarding behaviors, said Randy Frost, on of the nation's leading researchers treating and studying the disorder. An estimated 2 percent of American's have the disorder, he said, although it often is most noticeable among elderly because they have had longer to accumulate things and people are more likely to check on them than other adults."

The City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance proposal at Wednesday's meeting.

A proposed ordinance would begin to expand the city's options for resolving hoarding situations even when the hoarder owns the property. The measure, which would not apply to single-family homes, would create fines, clarify when police could enter a property with a warrant and refer violators to social services.

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