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Richard, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 55607
Experience:  Attorney with 29 years of experience.
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My neighbor is a 87 year old hoarder whose house burned 2

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My neighbor is a 87 year old hoarder whose house burned 2 weeks ago (it’s a total loss) leaving an exposed roof, a deterioring building and now I have to smell rotting waste in addition to the smoke smell. Who knows how long before this house is torn down. I understand there is no guarantee that it will be torn down. Her insurance company refused to tarp the roof. Her insurance adjusted will not return calls to our adjuster or to us. Once she gets her insurance pay off she can do what she wants with the money. I understand there is no stipulation that is has to be torn down and it’s up to the homeowner to do what they want with the house. My neighbor was elderly but I don’t think demented. We spoke to her and had been around her for neighborhood gatherings. We helped her with her dogs, her trash cans and other things. She was justt crazy with being a hoarder. ( Mayo clinic says hoarding is classified as an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) She is an intelligent women but out of control, and from what I understand from a family member and former neighbors, she has been like this for years in her old house too.) She had 2 dogs, rats in her house and hoarded food and everything else. There are multiple rat traps around the yard.
The fire dept. could not get in the door -it burned very hot and there was damage to our house. A contractor recommended by our insurance adjuster has requested roof replacement, duct cleaning, and changing out our insulation. My concern is that as long as we live next to a rotting cesspool it is still going to waft into our house. We live on a conservation lake and I fear the rotting materials will contaminate the lake. We also live in Florida and it is storm season. In the last 2 weeks since the fire we have had at least 6 inches of rain- adding to the cess pool rotting inside the house. You can see the bugs in the air circulating above. Every day more of the roof caves in.
I am waking up at night unable to sleep because of the smell. In addition, my husband and I run our 2 businesses out of our house. This is costing us time and money. We have to handle all the details on our house and constant interruptions by contractors, municipal workers, neighbors, curiosity seekers etc. We are infuriated. We maintain our property and did nothing wrong and we are paying the consequences. Our house value has dropped now that we live next door to this mess. I am a REALTOR and I know this market. As long as that mess over there sits, our house is worth less. I have been contemplating moving for some time and now we are stuck here for ?????????
Can we go after her or her doctor sons for liability? They knew she lived like this and did nothing. They have been in her house multiple times and recently. She had a major heart surgery 3 years ago and they let her come back to that house and live like that. We live in a 55+ community and there are many independent living options that could have worked for her right here within a 2 mile radius.
She has insurance. I’m sure they have malpractice and personal liability insurance. Do we have any rights at all? The house is in a revocable trust. I would imagine they are the successor trustees of that trust. She is a lone trustee I believe according to the purchase documents of 7 years ago seen on the clerks website. I feel that there are some insurance dollars there someplace that could be gotten. We feel trapped here. What can we do? Anything?
Welcome! My goal is to do my very best to understand your situation and to provide a full and complete answer for you.

You do have recourse here. Although they may feel as if they have the right to do whatever they please on their property and take as long as they want, those rights are limited by the impact they may have on others. You have the right to file a private nuisance claim since their actions deprive you of the peaceful and quiet enjoyment of your property which results in the deprivation of the habitability of your property. As such, you can file suit for private nuisance and ask the court to award you both damages for the past deprivation of the full enjoyment of your property and a court order to force them to remediate the situation so there is no further interference with such enjoyment. If they then violate the court order, they will be in contempt of court and subject to civil and/or criminal sanctions. In my experience, the mere filing of the suit itself leads to a resolution of the matter without actually having to get to the hearing. It's amazing the chilling impact being served with a summons that one is being sued does to cause them to cease and desist in their offending behavior.

Thank you so much for allowing me to help you with your questions. I have done my best to provide information which will be helpful to you. If I have not fully addressed your questions or if you have any follow up questions, or if I have misinterpreted your questions in any way, please do not rate me yet, but simply ask a follow up question without rating so I can provide you with a fully satisfactory answer. If I have fully answered your question(s) to your satisfaction, I would appreciate you rating my service with 3, 4, or 5 faces/stars so I can receive credit for helping you today. I thank you in advance for taking the time to provide me a positive rating!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

can I go after her sons too or just her?

Thanks for following up. Only if the sons are on the title. Only the owner of the property would be responsible for the property. I'm sorry!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Would any claims go against her personal liability insurance or just her personal money which I don't think she has much. Is there any way to find out how much insurance she has and what type of attorney do you reccomend we seek here in the Tampa area? Personal injury? Real estate attorney? i foresee this dragging out for a long time and she could be dead. Can you put any leins again the property? I am not sure what the next step should be. If I was your sister what would you advise me to do?

Actually, once you file suit against the neighbor, she will bring in her insurance company which will put added pressure on her insurance company to get this resolved quickly because under the state insurance code, if an insurance company fails to reasonably settle, they're not only liable for actual damages, but also a multiple of your actual damages in punitive damages. So, the first step is to send them a letter by certified mail explaining your plans. Include all the information I have provided you in this thread.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Is there a particular specialty within the law profession that I should seek to find an attorney who will represent us in this case.


Our personal attorney never returned our call which made us feel that it was a loosing proposition.

I don't have lots of $$$$ to shell out if we don't have a case. I wouldn't even know how much to ask for? I know we have lost business because our attention has been else where these past two weeks. My husband has had to turn down work and my focus has not been on prospecting. Again hows the best way to find the best attorney.

Thanks for your reply. You'd want a civil trial lawyer for this. Under my terms of service with JustAnswer, I'm not allowed to make a specific recommendation, but I can give you direction. You would want to either contact the state bar association or your nearest law school for a referral. I prefer the latter because they take great pride in their graduates and will take a more personal interest in making sure your referral is a good one because it will be a reflection of the school. But, this is not a complicated case so you would only need a 1-2 year lawyer rather than a more experienced lawyer with the higher billing rate that comes with that experience. And, as I mentioned, it's not likely to even get to trial. Typically the letter alone will work; and if not, the filing of the suit should be sufficient.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

great advice thank you so much! I feel we have a game plan.


Thank you very much!

You're welcome! It's been my pleasure to help! Enjoy your day!
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