Codes & Enforcement

Object or animal hoarding can sometimes lead to violations of local and state laws. The purpose of this section is to outline the laws that may impact residents of Philadelphia who are hoarding. These regulations help define when hoarding behavior goes from being an individual struggle to a community problem.

In addition to these laws, hoarding can lead to violations of lease agreements, which are enforceable through Municipal Court action. While lease agreements may vary, hoarding behaviors can lead to a breach of lease for failure to maintain property in clean and sanitary condition or failure to comply with extermination efforts.

Please note that this section of the website is for educational purposes only. Nothing in this section should be construed as legal advice. To learn about your legal rights as they relate to local, state or federal laws, please consult an attorney.

City of Philadelphia: Property Maintenance Code

The City of Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) is responsible for regulating housing units to ensure that they conform to the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code. Below is a list of the code violations that may result from hoarded home:

1.    PM-302.2 EXTERIOR PROPERTY AREA SANITATION
All exterior property and premises shall be maintained in a clean, safe and sanitary condition free from an accumulation of rubbish or garbage.

Where rodents are found, they shall be promptly exterminated by approved processes which will not be injurious to human health. After extermination, proper precautions shall be taken to prevent reinfestation. The occupant shall keep that part of the exterior property which such occupant occupies or controls in a clean and sanitary condition.

2.    PM-303.2 INTERIOR AREA SANITATION
The interior of every structure shall be free from any accumulation of rubbish or garbage.

3.    PM-303.3 DISPOSAL OF WASTE MATTER
Every occupant of a structure shall dispose of all rubbish and garbage in a clean and sanitary manner by placing such material in approved containers, both within the occupant's area of control and as provided in common for multiple tenants.

4.    PM-303.4 INFESTATION
All structures shall be maintained free of infestation by insects, rodents, vermin or other pests.

5.    PM-304.1 EXTERIOR STRUCTURE
The exterior of a structure shall be maintained in good repair, structurally sound and sanitary so as not to pose a threat to the public health, safely or welfare. All structural members shall be maintained free from deterioration, and shall be capable of safely supporting the imposed dead and live loads.

To view portions of the Philadelphia Code, click here.

If an L&I inspector finds a violation in a home that is not an immediate safety risk, an L&I follow-up inspection occurs after 35 days. If the violation is not corrected, an additional 35 days will be given to comply. If it is found during this third inspection that the violation still remains, then the case is sent to the city of Philadelphia Law Department.

For Philadelphia residents cleaning out themselves, the City of Philadelphia Streets Department sets the following limits: Non-recyclable rubbish cannot exceed six 32-gallon receptacles or 12 plastic bags or an equivalent combination of the two.  There is no limit on recyclables.  If a property exceeds set out limits, a fine will be issued.

A unit suspected of being in violation of the Property Maintenance Code can be reported to the City of Philadelphia: Department of Licenses & Inspection by calling 311 or going to www.phila.gov/311 to submit a service request.

City of Philadelphia: Fire Code

The City of Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) is responsible for regulating housing units to ensure that they conform to the Philadelphia Fire Code. Below is a list of the code violations that may result from hoarded home:

1.   STORAGE OF COMBUSTIBLE MATERIALS
Storage of combustible materials in buildings shall be orderly. Storage shall be separated from heaters or heating devices by distance or shielding so that ignition cannot occur. Outside storage shall not be located within 10 feet of a property line, with some exceptions.

2.     PORTABLE HEATING AND COOKING EQUIPMENT
Portable heating and cooking equipment that produces a flame is not permitted in a building, with some exceptions.  Portable unvented fuel-fired heating equipment shall be prohibited, with some exceptions.

3.     SMOKE ALARMS
Smoke Alarms must be located on every level. Smoke alarms must be hardwired or have 10-year non-removable batteries. Smoke alarms must be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and tested weekly.

4.     CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS
Carbon monoxide alarms must be installed in a building where one or more fossil fuel or wood-burning appliance is installed.  Carbon monoxide alarms must be located within 15 feet of each bedroom.  Carbon monoxide alarms should be hard-wired.  In some cases carbon monoxide alarms can be battery powered or plug-in. Carbon monoxide alarms shall be installed and tested in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, at least monthly.

5.     EGRESS PATHS
Exterior means of egress in existing buildings shall be maintained and provide a clear pathway, of at least 36 inches, to a public way.  Means of egress doors in existing buildings shall be readily openable from the egress side without the use of a key or special knowledge or effort. The minimum width of each door opening in an existing building shall be sufficient for the occupant load thereof and shall provide a clear width of not less than 28 inches, with some exceptions.

Exits and exit doors shall not be obscured from visibility or obstructed by furnishing, decorations or other objects. Hangings or draperies shall not be placed over exit doors or otherwise located to conceal or obstruct an exit. Mirrors shall not be placed on exit doors. Mirrors shall not be placed in or adjacent to exits in such a manner as to confuse the direction of exit travel.

To view portions of the Philadelphia Code, click here.  

For questions about the Philadelphia Fire Code please call 215-686-1356

A home or unit with blocked entrances and exits, such as doors or windows with piles of items visibly blocking them, can be reported to L&I and the Philadelphia Fire Department by calling 311.

A home or unit containing fuels such as gasoline, kerosene or propane and a large amount of flammable materials can be reported to Licenses & Inspections and the Philadelphia Fire Department by calling 311.

A home or unit suspected of being in violation of the Fire Code can be reported to the City of Philadelphia: Department of Licenses & Inspection by calling 311 or going to www.phila.gov/311 to submit a service request.

 

City of Philadelphia: Animal Ordinances

The Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT) is responsible for enforcing City of Philadelphia ordinances relating to animals.  Below is a list of code violations that may result from animal hoarding:

1.    §10-103(8) No more than twelve (12) adult dogs or cats combined may be kept on one parcel of land.  No more than two (2) dogs and two (2) cats may be unsterilized.

2.    § 10-112 Residents are prohibited from keeping farm animals.

3.    § 10-114 (1)(a) Every person who owns any animal must maintain the buildings and enclosures in which animals are kept in a clean and sanitary condition to control odors and prevent the spread of disease.

To view the complete Philadelphia Code, click here

A unit suspected of being in violation of the Animal Ordinances above can be reported to ACCT Philly by calling 267-385-3800, emailing fieldservices@acctphilly.org or filing a complaint here.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Animal Cruelty Laws

Pennsylvania SPCA Humane Law Enforcement is responsible for enforcing state laws pertaining to animal cruelty.  Animal hoarding can result in a conviction for the following offense:

18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5511 (c)(1) Animal Cruelty—A person commits an offense if he…neglects any animal as to which he has a duty of care…or deprives any animal of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter or veterinary care, or access to clean and sanitary shelter…

To view the complete Pennsylvania Code, click here.

Animal cruelty is a summary offense that can result in criminal penalties including fines, supervision or incarceration.

There are six officers responsible for investigating allegations of animal abuse or neglect in Philadelphia.  Officers respond to complaints by making initial home visits and follow-up visits as needed.  The officers initially approach each case by educating animal owners and following up to confirm that conditions have improved.

When education and follow up is insufficient to protect an animal’s welfare, humane law enforcement may remove animals from a home.  They can then issue a summary citation for animal cruelty for each animal carrying up to 90 days of animal ownership prohibition, 90 days of imprisonment and up to $750 in fines per citation.

A person suspected of animal cruelty can be reported to humane law enforcement by calling the PSPCA at 866-601-7722.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Child Abuse/Neglect Laws

The City of Philadelphia Department of Human Services is responsible for coordinating the enforcement of state child abuse/neglect laws in the City of Philadelphia.

For children residing in a hoarded home, the most common issue is neglect.  Neglect is the withholding of or failure to provide a child with the basic necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, medical care, attention to hygiene, or supervision needed for optimal physical growth and development. Signs of neglect may include frequently missed school days, begging or stealing food or money, a lack of needed medical or dental care or glasses, a consistently dirty appearance or severe body odor, or alcohol or drug abuse.

The following safety threats as documented in the DHS In-Home Safety Assessment Worksheet may be found when a child is residing in a hoarded home:
1.    Caregiver(s) in the home are not performing duties and responsibilities that assure child safety.
2.    Caregiver(s) do not have or do not use resources necessary to meet the child’s immediate basic needs which presents an immediate threat of serious harm to a child.
3.    Caregiver(s) overtly rejects CPS/GPS intervention; refuses access to a child; and/or there is some indication that the caregivers will flee.

A person suspected of child abuse or neglect can be reported to the Philadelphia Department of Human Services by contacting 311 or 215-683-6100 or 1-800-932-0313.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Older Adult Abuse/Neglect Laws

The Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) Older Adult Protective Services (OAPS) is responsible for enforcing of state elder abuse/neglect laws in the City of Philadelphia.

PCA Older Adult Protective Services provides the resources to detect, prevent, reduce or eliminate:
•    Self-neglect
•    Neglect by a caregiver
•    Physical, sexual or psychological abuse
•    Misuse of the older adult’s money or personal property
•    Abandonment

For older adults residing in a hoarded home, the most common issue is neglect.  Older adult neglect is the failure to provide for oneself or the failure of a caretaker to provide goods or services essential to avoid a clear and serious threat to physical or mental health. No older adult who does not consent to the provision of protective services shall be found to be neglected solely on the grounds of environmental factors which are beyond the control of the older adult or the caretaker, such as inadequate housing, furnishings, income, clothing or medical care.

PCA Older Adult Protective Services (OAPS) can intervene when a person:
•    Is age 60 or older
•    Is a Philadelphia resident
•    Has no responsible caregiver present or is neglected by those responsible for providing food, shelter, health care or protection for a vulnerable elder
•    Is at imminent risk of danger to self or property
•    Is unable to perform essential tasks or obtain services necessary to maintain physical or mental health

A person suspected of abusing or neglecting an older adult can be reported to the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging Older Adult Protective Services by contacting 215-765-9040.