Extreme cases of hoarding will not be fined under Government’s new laws

Lachlan Roberts 24 October 2019 15
Chris Steel

Mr Steel said it is important that the framework does not criminalise the complex mental health issue of hoarding. Photo: File.

Extreme hoarding cases will not be penalised with a fine under the ACT Government’s new tough anti-littering laws, to ensure that “mental health issues are not criminalised”.

The ACT Government will introduce a new framework for handling extreme cases of hoarding, which will allow Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) officers to enter a private site to clean-up and abate the hoarding, but only after all other courses of action have been taken.

Minister for City Services Chris Steel said the scheme will allow for a staged approach including education and awareness, a show cause and notice to remedy, followed by an abatement order requiring the responsible person to clean up the site and remove the litter, or, alternatively, allow TCCS staff to enter the site and clean-up.

Mr Steel said the framework ensures appropriate processes must be followed, including a mandatory code of practice and an application to the ACT Magistrates Court before entering the private premises. He believes hoarding around the territory will be able to be better managed under the new legislation.

“Hoarding can have serious safety risks to both the occupants of the property with the hoarding issue and surrounding land,” Mr Steel said. “However, we also know that cases of extreme hoarding on private land are complex and sensitive, and often involve underlying mental health issues.

“Importantly, this framework does not criminalise the complex mental health issue of hoarding and we will work closely with mental health and community organisations and experts in dealing with individual matters, and the development of a code of practice.

“A criminal offence only occurs under these provisions when a court-imposed order is not complied with.”

Hoarding at Kallen

A Kaleen residence has been the site of mass hoarding over the past six years, according to a neighbour. Photo: File.

Mr Steel said this approach will achieve the policy’s intent of reducing significant littering on private property which can have substantial impacts on the rights of neighbours and the broader community, in the least restrictive way.

The ACT Government will now design a mandatory code of practice to guide the resolution process where a mental health issue has been identified. The new framework will not come into effect until the code of practice is developed.

The ACT Greens put forward an amendment to establish an advisory council to ensure that the development of the code of practice is informed by people with suitable qualifications and experience, including experts in treating mental health conditions.

After initially receiving support, Labor withdrew their support and the amendment was not passed. Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said a hoarding advisory council was important to provide the ACT Government with guidelines on how to manage the complex issue.

“We need to have real nuance when it comes to hoarding,” Mr Rattenbury told Region Media. “I know for neighbours it can be a very uncomfortable experience but we need to look at what’s behind it. It is almost universally driven by a mental health condition of one kind or another.

“Just cracking down from a law and order approach its not the answer. It’s about working with people, helping them on that journey and therefore reducing the impact on the neighbours in the long run.”

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15 Responses to Extreme cases of hoarding will not be fined under Government’s new laws
Tania Reid Tania Reid 5:39 pm 31 Oct 19

Ironic that they mention it's a mental health issue and yet NO mention of mental health support!

Jim Jim Jim Jim 6:38 am 28 Oct 19

I live next to a hoarder who is in public housing. The ACT Government definitely needs to do more in every way. I can appreciate the mental illness/trauma aspect but don’t hide behind that as an excuse for lip service and inaction. There’s also rampant drug use and drug dealing occurring and a revolving door of dodgy people staying. The previous government tenant died of a drug overdose in his front room. We had to endure people high and see them being carted off by ACT Police and even randoms knocking on my door at 2am, mistaking my house for next door, looking to score. Now this. I’m sick of it. Myself and my kids bloody well have rights too (and yes they’re scared to be outside), something lost in the rhetoric and everyone falling over themselves to be touchy feely. It’s a fire hazard, an eye sore and we’ve noticed loads of rats. It has undoubtedly made my property far less desirable and devalued it significantly as we are looking to sell to get away from it. Something needs to be done to stop hoarding and greater scrutiny of public housing tenants and rampant drug dealing in our suburbs.

    Jim Jim Jim Jim 9:35 am 01 Nov 19

    Tania Reid ‘action’ and ‘support’ are the key words...and it extends to the entire neighbourhood and broader community when rampant drug use and drug dealing are involved. ACT Government needs to apply greater scrutiny to public housing tenants.

Melissa Sleegers Melissa Sleegers 11:09 pm 25 Oct 19

That's a good start. Now they need to put some funding back into supporting individuals struggling with hoarding disorder and also educating the public, government employees, Ministers and support workers. The ACT Government had previously provided some funding for supports and also the Buried in Treasures program which proved a great success for a number of participants - it was a small investment of funds which had a great impact. This funding needs to be reinstated at a minimum.

    Jan Malcolm Jan Malcolm 4:42 pm 31 Oct 19

    Couldn't agree more Melissa! Understanding the extend of the problem and the numbers of people who engage in problematic hoarding behaviour is frustration for me as a researcher and helper.

Grimm Grimm 6:03 pm 25 Oct 19

Drop a piece of paper, get a fine.

Amass a genuine health and safety hazard to everybody in your vacinity, all good.

This government is retarded.

Warwick Alsop Warwick Alsop 12:43 pm 25 Oct 19

But giving people fines for anything might cause severe financial hardship, affecting mental health.

    Vic Franklin Vic Franklin 5:57 pm 25 Oct 19

    So put litter in the bin and don't get a fine 🤷 Stress from a potential fine for being lazy and the complexities involved in extreme hoarding cases aren't at all comparable.

    Toni Brooks Toni Brooks 8:00 pm 27 Oct 19

    Vic Franklin my thoughts as well. Don't break the law = no fines

Matthew Pez Matthew Pez 11:55 am 25 Oct 19

You can tell the bigots by the angry face reacts.

Brent Sloane Brent Sloane 10:45 am 25 Oct 19

Absolutely correct. Hoarding is a serious mental health issue and shouldn’t be treated the same way as people choosing to litter.

Karen Louise Karen Louise 10:21 am 25 Oct 19

Thank goodness for common sense

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 9:14 am 25 Oct 19

This is jolly good, and at the end of the day I’d rather have a Barr than a Morrison. But I see the same problem with the new system as the old – a fantastic “process”, but no timely “outcome”, like the block being cleaned up and made safe for mankind.

Our particular problem block, though they are lovely people, has been left totally unsafe and variously illegal for 10 years I know of. Will it take another 10?

    noid noid 2:20 pm 25 Oct 19

    Agree their needs to be a time frame as neighbours rights need to be considered as well. It would be horrendous to live next door to.

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