The death of a 76-year-old man, whose body was found among heaps of junk accumulated in his four-room-flat, has again sparked concern over the issue of hoarding.
Hoarding is a common problem in rental homes which often goes unnoticed, welfare organisations told The Straits Times (ST) in an article published on August 17.
According to one such organisation, there is a hoarder found in two out of every 10 households visited by welfare workers.
The problem is not restricted to rental flats.
Mr Quek, whose body was found in the rubbish-filled flat on Wednesday, had been previously advised by HDB to remove unwanted items from the Bedok Reservoir flat.
According to reports, his wife had told the Housing Board that he was hoarding rubbish in his flat.
The items were piled from floor to ceiling when he was found dead in his home.
HDB told ST that its officers conduct investigations when it receives feedback that residents are hoarding and causing fire hazards.
The authority will also help to dispose of them if needed.
It is also common for residents' committees and grassroots leaders to help persuade hoarders to throw away unwanted items.
However, town councils do not have the power to regulate the items residents keep within their flats.
The problem remains difficult to eradicate even if it is not widespread.
People who know the hoarder could suffer, and as a consequence, relationships could deteriorate and worsen the problem.
The problem also often goes unnoticed because there is usually no trouble posed to neighbours. Hoarders also tend to be reclusive and do not interact with their neighbours.
In its report, MP Lily Neo, whose Tanjong Pagar ward has more than 5,000 rental flats, said the hoarding problem has improved gradually over the years.
"Those who are clear-minded do listen to me when I tell them about bed bugs, and that they may develop a cough living in that kind of air, but some are stubborn," she said.
Difficulty of eradicating the problem is also exacerbated because it could be caused by mental illnesses like obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and dementia.
Dr Lee Cheng, chief of the Department of Community Psychiatry at the Institute of Mental Health, told ST that hoarders are often isolated and have come from the low-income segment of society.
But not all hoarders have mental illnesses, health professionals said. Some keep items for sentimental reasons, or because they believe that the items have value high enough to be kept and sold at a later date.