Laguna Woods is described as the premier active lifestyle community for people age 55 and older. Initial groundbreaking at Laguna Woods occurred over 50 years ago. The community is located 10 minutes from the beach. The community has over 18,000 residents, of which over 6,000 reside in units under the auspices of United Mutual and that entities homeowner’s association.
Aggressive Anti-Hoarding Policy in Laguna Woods
The Laguna Woods – United Mutual Homeowner’s Association has adopted what is reported to be a first of its kind, highly aggressive anti-hoarding policy. The policy applies to the residents of the 6,323 units in the Laguna Woods retirement community operated by United Mutual.
The policy adopted by the HOA board calls upon all residents of the retirement community operated by United Mutual to report suspected hoarding in the community. When suspected hoarding is reported by community members, an inspection of the subject residence is ordered.
The HOA board maintains that this policy is designed to prevent safety hazards in the community. It is also intended to protect property in the community. The reality is that hoarding can negatively impact the health, safety, and welfare of not only the hoarder but neighbors and other people in the community as well. In addition, as hoarding progresses, it causes damage to the physical elements of a residence as well.
How the Laguna Woods Policy Is Implemented
When a report of a possible hoarding situation is received from a resident of Laguna Woods, the HOA board orders an inspection. When that occurs, the owner of the unit suspected of hoarding is advised of the order. The resident must give permission for an inspection. If a resident refuses to allow an inspection, he or she is brought before the HOA board for a disciplinary hearing.
HOA rules and regulations govern what sanctions can be imposed upon a resident for refusing to permit an inspection. If the resident remains obstinate in refusing to permit an inspection, penalties can be imposed that can even include removal from the retirement community via the eviction process.
If an inspection occurs, a determination is made as to whether or not the resident has violated the hoarding policy. If a violation is found to have occurred, the resident is given 15 days to remove the clutter. If the resident refuses to remedy the situation as directed by the HOA board, the board can take further action that includes:
- Court order to remove clutter
- Fine the resident
- Suspend resident’s community privileges
- Evict the resident
Professional Hoarding Cleanup in Laguna Woods
The HOA board recognizes that confronting a residence about hoarding can be a traumatic experience for the resident. The board intends to develop resources to support a resident who faces an order to clean up a unit and remove clutter.
Oftentimes, the best way to effectively undertake hoarder property cleanup in Laguna Woods is to engage the services of a professional. A hoarder property cleanup specialist has the background and experience necessary to compassionately and effectively remediate a hoarding situation. This includes safely taking all steps necessary to address biohazards that may exist in a property at which hoarding has occurred
The Overall Prevalence of Hoarding
The Orange County Fire Authority reports that it receives over 12 reports each week from people across the county reporting hoarding issues. Some of these reports due involve Laguna Woods residents. The OCFA does follow up inspections when a report s received. The OCFA advises that of these residences, about 30 percent have hoarding situations that present a danger in the home or fire code violations.
The Orange County Healthcare Agency reports that it receives about 200 referrals annually about adults living in dangerous conditions because of hoarding, including residents of Laguna Woods. This agency attempts to bring individuals and organizations together to address and remediate specific hoarding cases.
Existing Methods for Legally Addressing Hoarding
In Orange County, there are no specific ordinances that prohibit clutter of the type associated with hoarding. The move by the HOA in Laguna Woods really does represent the most significant formalized move to address and combat hoarding in any Orange County community.
With that said, hoarding typically has been reported to municipal code enforcement officers. In some cases, code enforcement agencies are able to initiate action in regard to a residential hoarding situation under the pretense that a public nuisance exists. Indeed, when a case of hoarding has resulted in clutter extending to the exterior of a property, and in the deterioration of a residence itself, a code enforcement action oftentimes is possible.
Photo Courtesy of Claire Craig.