Hoarding: A Common Issue in Health & Safety Code Receiverships

As a court-appointed Health & Safety Code Receiver, I deal with property owners engaged in hoarding often.  From the curb outside a home, one would never know the complications behind the doors of a hoarder.

In very basic terms hoarding is a complex emotional disorder driven primarily by a compulsive need to acquire things coupled with a debilitating inability to get rid of anything- sometimes even a piece of aluminum foil is too difficult to part with.  The disorder can affect anyone at any age, although it seems that hoarding intensifies with age.  And while the living conditions may seem obviously out of control to an outsider, a hoarder is unlikely to see it that way.  Instead, people who suffer from this condition will typically describe themselves as someone who simply has a hard time letting go of things that matter to them or, at worst, a “pack rat.”

As a receiver in California, I am tasked routinely with remedying health and safety hazards present in residential housing.  With hoarding scenarios, the biggest challenge is dealing with the sometimes decades-long accumulation of “things.”  What one may consider garbage, a hoarder considers quite valuable.  When necessary, I will retain counselors to assist the owner with the emotional effect of dealing with (and typically parting with) their things.

The New York Times published an interesting article last week discussing the challenges of hoarding in the context of selling a home that has housed a hoarder.  The article discusses many of the practical struggles that court-appointed receivers face in California.

Hoarding can cause serious safety risks for entire neighborhoods.  The accumulation of papers, coupled with aging electrical systems, pose fire risks.  Without safe and clear pathways for exiting the home, a house fire could be devastating for the owner as well.


Attorney Richardson “Red” Griswold is commonly appointed as a Health & Safety Code Receiver for dilapidated properties in Southern California.  Please contact Griswold Law at (858) 481-1300 or for more information about receiverships.

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