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Neighborhood Services
Unsafe Living Conditions & Hoarding

Unsafe Living Conditions

Facts about Unsafe Living Conditions

Knowing the conditions that experts deem as unsafe in a residence can save saves lives and protects neighborhoods.


  • Reporting unsafe living conditions to Property Code Enforcement when you see them can only help the situation.


Unsafe living conditions that need to be reported to the property code enforcement team includes homes with maintenance issues that cause hazards such as:



      • Gas leaks

      • Utilities or appliances that have not worked for some time

      • No running hot or cold water

      • Damage to foundations, decks, stairways, joists, or other key structures

      • Excessive storage inside and outside of the dwelling

Extremely unsafe living conditions in homes can create a serious hazard for both the resident and others who enter the home.

    • Severe cases are very complex, and often involve some form of mental illness.

    • Firefighters or rescue workers lose precious time to save lives when unsafe living conditions and behaviors get in the way.

    • In fact, while 1% of residential fires are caused by unsafe living conditions in the U.S., 25% of all fire-related deaths are cases where blocked egress, excessive storage, and other unsafe conditions were occurring in the home.

The bottom line is that it is unsafe for a resident, visitors and emergency personnel when a residence:

    • has obstructed pathways not allowing free access throughout the home,
    • has piles of stored materials so heavy that floor joists are stressed,
    • has windows or exit doors that are blocked by furniture or stored items.


Excessive Collection of Items:

The excessive collection and retention of things to the point of interfering with day-to-day functions of life is considered unsafe. 

When essential parts of a home (such as kitchens or bathrooms) are rendered unusable by the excessive collection and retention of materials, these conditions severely increase the potential for a fire and are unsanitary.  These unsanitary conditions provide an environment for vermin, rodents and insect infestations. 

Heavy items, such as an accumulation of newspapers, boxes, magazines, can lead to overstressing of structural joists and beams. A room with stacked newspapers can cause floor systems to sag, crack or even collapse.

While Neighborhood Services staff works to resolve excessive collection of materials we also reach out to other agencies and organizations when appropriate to help find long-term solutions to benefit the occupant and neighbors. 


What is the Role of Neighborhood Services in Unsafe Living Condition Cases

Through the identification of unsafe living conditions, where residents put themselves and others at risk, Neighborhood Services will collaborate with other agencies to reduce risk for the occupants and others.  Often this requires enforcement actions documented in the County adopted Property Maintenance Code.  Regular follow up normally occurs as the situation is abated. 

Neighborhood Services’ enforcement actions for blighted properties, unsafe structures and structures unfit for human occupancy deals only with problems with the structure itself.  For occupants who become displaced while the home is rendered safe, Neighborhood Services collaborates with other local or state agencies who may be able to provide additional assistance.

For more information on what Neighborhood Services can do if you suspect an unsafe living situation in your neighborhood, call us at 703-792-7018 or email us at











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