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What is domestic squalor?

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Domestic squalor is a living condition that is often described as filthy, unclean and foul. It can surface as a lack of care and cleanliness or through general neglect.

It usually presents itself as an accumulation of rubbish as a result of an individual’s inability to dispose of, or active accumulation of, household waste.

Deconstructing domestic squalor

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Domestic squalor or hoarding is a complex and difficult issue. Its effects can have consequential impacts on individuals and their family, friends and neighbours.

People that hoard can become even more withdrawn and socially isolated as personal relationships break down. In conjunction with object accumulation, there may also be a fear of eviction from rental properties, associated health problems and risks, and commonly, financial problems.

The causes and reasons as to why a person may hoard or live in squalor vary, and sometimes work in tandem. The behaviour may be the result of a:

  • number of psychiatric disorders (depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia)
  • physical disorder
  • dementia or another age-related illness
  • trauma, or
  • effects of substance abuse

What is hoarding and cluttering?

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Hoarding and cluttering involves an excessive collection of items (which appear to have little or no value) and a failure to remove or discard them.

This often means that the environment in which they are being kept becomes so cluttered that it can no longer be used for the purpose for which it was designed.

Consequently, this will impair the basic living activities (such as cooking, cleaning, sleeping, showering and moving) of the occupant.

What can we do?

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When a report is lodged with the City of Parramatta, our environmental health officers will visit the property and assess the conditions and risks.

We may then refer the matter to a support service, such as Catholic Community Services, which specialises in assessing and intervening in cases of squalor and hoarding.

Resolving the matter

Our staff will aim to resolve hoarding or squalor issues informally.

If this approach is not successful and conditions pose a risk to public health or safety, there is legislation that provides powers to City of Parramatta to pursue enforcement action.

Legislation

Under Local Government Act 1993, section 124 orders:

  • Order 21 would typically deal with an accumulation of garbage and/or other items on the premises/land which are likely to be providing a refuge for vermin. It is an offence (s.628(2)) not to comply with the terms of the order and the maximum penalty for non-compliance is 20 penalty units or $2,200.
  • Order 22A requires the removal or disposal of waste that is on any residential premises or to refrain from keeping waste on the premises where there is a risk to public health. Non-compliance with the Order attracts a maximum fine of $2,200 and also triggers the works in default provisions of s.678 with full recovery of all expenses incurred in the clean-up. The Order will stay in effect for a period of five years, and if waste was to accumulate again during this period, City of Parramatta could order another clean-up.
  • Order 18 would be used in a situation when squalor and unhealthy premises is caused or partly caused by a large number of animals or birds being kept at the premises. This order can be used if animals are kept inappropriately on the premises.

Get in touch

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If you have concerns relating to a property which fits the description of squalor or hoarding, you can get in touch with our team for more information or to lodge a complaint on 9806 5050