What 'filthy or verminous' means

When a property has a lot of food waste, faecal material, soiled clothing or furniture, or is infested with rodents (rats or mice) or insects it may be termed ‘filthy and/or verminous’ under public health legislation. Properties like this may cause a smell that affects neighbours and there may be concerns about the health of the occupier. Some of these properties have a lot of stored belongings in them, this is sometimes called hoarding.

About hoarding disorder

Sometimes, but not always, residents of properties that can be classified as filthy and verminous may have a problem with acquiring an excessive number of items which they store in their property. This, on its own, will not necessarily produce a risk to health. However, hoarding can make access difficult and may present a fire risk. The Fire and Rescue Service offer Safe and Well visits and provide advice on managing fire risk.

The person may be suffering from 'hoarding disorder', which is now a recognised mental health condition. If you are concerned that your friend or relative may have a significant problem with hoarding their General Practitioner (GP) should be approached. Further advice can be found on the NHS website.

What to do if you feel a property is in a filthy condition

If you feel you are able to speak to the occupier you should try to check if they are alright or need some help. You may be able to help them contact family members who can assist, their GP, or the council’s Adult Social Care Services.

Mind is the leading mental health organisation in England and Wales and are able to provide information on a range of topics including hoarding disorder.

If you are unable to speak to the person, or are being affected by the living conditions within the property, please contact the Environmental Protection Team and provide us with as much information as possible about the person concerned.

What the the Environmental Protection Team can do

We will initially visit you or, depending on the circumstances, the property in question to assess the problem ourselves. Such problems have to be dealt with sensitively, and normally in partnership with the Adult Social Care service, Fire Service and other organisations.

Once access to the property has been made, and depending on what we find, we may ask the resident to arrange cleaning, removal of waste or pest control treatment, or we can serve a legal notice requiring the work to take place. Failure to comply with the notice may result in us appointing a contractor with the costs of this being recovered from the resident.

For further advice, or to report suspected filthy or verminous premises, please contact us on 01634 333 333.