Houston, We Have a Problem and It's Your 'Anti Hoarding' Ordinance: The Legal Ramifications and Shortcomings of Houston's Controversial Statute

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Hoarding behavior and hoarding disorder affect between 2-5% of the population and present various legal dilemmas for communities. Unlike many areas that have opted for more supportive solutions, Houston, Texas, in a case of therapeutic jurisprudence gone awry, has created an ordinance, with criminal penalties, that many have described as “anti-hoarding”. The threat of criminal punishment is not necessarily an ethical, or legal, problem and may encourage those who hoard to seek help. But because hoarding behavior is a sign of mental illness, it is necessary to ensure that the law is properly addressing the needs of both the city and those who hoard within it.

The scant legal research on hoarding and housing law has undoubtedly influenced the decision-making that led to the ordinance’s creation. To be sure, the existing scholarship provides a thorough overview of how hoarding fits into the legal landscape. However, these articles fall short in demonstrating the ramifications on one’s housing that can result when hoarding is criminalized.

This essay provides a legal analysis and critique to Houston’s ordinance by exploring how the ordinance fits within therapeutic jurisprudence, Texas’ eviction procedures, and the reasonable accommodation provision within the Fair Housing Act. Pervading the essay is a reminder of the delicate psychology of hoarding and its impact on the individual. At its conclusion, the essay suggests that Houston form a hoarding task force to oversee the ordinance’s implementation. By illuminating this shadowy intersection of the law and psychology, Houston and other communities can learn how to more adequately address the many social and legal problems posed by hoarding.


17 journal of Law & Social Deviance 184 (2019)


Housing Law | Law | Law and Psychology

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17 Journal of Law & Social Deviance 184 (2019)