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Receiverships for Hoarding: Life-Threatening Conditions

All too often we hear about tragic residential fires related to the unsafe accumulation of papers and other flammable debris within the home.  Recently, an elderly woman in La Jolla died in a house fire potentially caused or exacerbated by an unreasonable amount of papers within the living areas, leaving the woman without a safe exit route during an emergency.  (See “Woman Dies in Fire in Debris-Filled Home,” U-T San Diego, May 13, 2014). Hoarding is a serious matter causing many problems and, as in this case, resulting in tragedy.

As a court-appointed health and safety code receiver in over 15 counties throughout California, I witness these serious safety risks often when dealing with individuals suffering from a hoarding disorder.  As discussed in previous articles on this website, hoarding is a complex, yet relatively common, emotional disorder driven primarily by a person’s compulsive need to acquire things coupled with a debilitating inability to get rid of anything. 

As we enter what looks to be a warm and dry summer, the risk of fire is already high.  When coupled with an unreasonable accumulation of papers in an already-dilapidated house with potential electrical wiring issues, a serious safety hazard arises for occupants of the property as well as property neighbors. 

Attorney Richardson “Red” Griswold is commonly appointed as a Health & Safety Code Receiver for dilapidated properties in Southern California.  Please contact Griswold Law for more information about receiverships.

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