Jesse Jones

Homeowners face $32,000 lawsuit from Pierce County over homeless camps on their properties

TACOMA — Pierce County is suing Golden Oak homeowners for $32,000 as they struggle to clean up homeless encampments on the shaded parts of their property.

The group of trees that runs across the backyard of neighbors’ houses has recently become a sanctuary for the homeless who have set up plywood and tent structures in the small patch of forest. But Percy Williams who lives on the property says that he never know that the property was their responsibility in the first place.

“They never told us about this at all,” said Williams, “I never knew that we owned that property.”

Usually, the homeowners association would be to blame, however, since no organization exists for this particular residential area, 22 homeowners are now the target of the lawsuit.

“And that’s the problem. Not having an association is the county can’t go after the association, but they have to go after the homeowners themselves,” said attorney Bryce Dilley, who is representing the company that originally bought the lots and sold them to the developer.

Army vet Melvin Broom has been living on that block for years and says his retirement home is now a battlefield.

“I tried to get someone to get them people to move, and they told me it belonged to a private company. So there was nothing that they could do. When I call the police and there’s nothing we can do,” said Broom.

“Garbage and sewer and there’s everything,” he added.

When we called the Pierce County Prosecutor handling the case, the spokesperson said that “while the County intends to clean up the property through the abatement process if the nuisance persists, the owners can proactively clean up the parcel – it is, after all, their property.”

The county says it would also place a lien on each home, meaning that their property taxes could go up.

Like many of the Golden Oak homeowners, Diana is frustrated.

“All these people who are actually paying for our homes, like paying our bills, we have to deal with things like this and then we’re getting sued on top of that,” she said. “It’s ridiculous, even if it’s clean, they come back.”

Even if the residents pay for the clean-up and secure the property, the county says it could take the homeowners back to court if the encampment happens to return in the future.

So, the residents of Golden Oaks find themselves in a Catch-22: pay to clean and secure this mess, or lawyer up.

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