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What Happens to a Condemned Property?

By Pablo Garcia
Updated May 16, 2024
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In the US, a condemned property is one considered by a local building authority to be unsafe to use or inhabit. Once a dilapidated building or house has been condemned, the property can not be inhabited until the owner is able to provide proof that the violations have been fixed. If the property is not repaired within a set amount of time or the expense of rehabilitating the structure is not justified, it is generally demolished by the appropriate local authority. Sometimes property is “taken” through state or federal powers of eminent domain in order to put it to an important public use. These uses include roads, parks, and levees.

Local departments of building safety or inspections are usually responsible for designating a structure as condemned. This designation generally occurs when a property has been vacant, unoccupied, or boarded up for more than six months. A house or building may also be condemned because of repeated building code violations that have not been addressed and that render the structure uninhabitable or unsafe to use. Other factors include the severity of any damage, the impact on surrounding structures, and any attempts by the owner to improve the property.

A condemnation order is usually issued by a building safety director on behalf of a city or municipality, and the owner of the property may appeal the order. Most jurisdictions give the owner a reasonable opportunity to rehabilitate or repair the property. He may also negotiate a rehabilitation agreement with the building authority for repair and restoration of the property.

The owner of rental property that is the subject of a condemnation order may not continue to rent the property. In some jurisdictions, the owner’s license to rent any properties may be revoked until the matter is resolved. If the property is not restored or no rehabilitation agreement is reached, the appropriate authority can have the structure demolished. In some localities, the owner may be partially or wholly responsible for the demolition expenses.

There are situations where the expense of restoring the property is not justified by the potential market value after all the necessary repairs. Under these circumstances, an owner of a condemned property may voluntarily have the property demolished. The parties may reach an agreement as to the expense of tearing down and removing the structure. Often, the local building authority will bear the cost in order to enhance property values of surrounding structures.

Unlike condemnation, government seizure of private land under powers of eminent domain is based on the location of the property and not its condition. The property is taken to promote some important public purpose, which can include the building of a highway, an airport, or a public facility. In most places, the owner must be fairly compensated for the loss of the property.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when a house is declared condemned?

Confiscated properties are those that have been ruled unfit for human habitation by a government agency, such as a building inspector or health department. After an assessment of the property, a range of issues, including structural problems, health concerns, and code violations, may be cited as reasons for this conclusion.

When a property is condemned, what usually happens to it?

The owner of a condemned property is usually granted a set period of time to make the necessary repairs or changes to bring the building into compliance with current building standards. The government can confiscate the property and put it up for auction if the owner refuses or is unable to make the necessary modifications.

Who pays for the upkeep of a condemned building if it needs fixing up?

The cost of any necessary repairs or enhancements to bring a condemned property up to code must be paid for by the owner of the property. When a property owner refuses or is unable to undertake critical repairs, the government may step in and do it, adding the cost of the work to the owner's property taxes.

Is it possible to sell a condemned building?

Property that has been condemned may still be sold in some circumstances, although usually at a greatly reduced price reflecting the property's poor state. If a prospective buyer wants the home to be up to code, they should know that doing so will come at their expense.

How does one go about buying a foreclosed home?

Depending on local regulations, there may be several steps involved in purchasing a condemned building. Some properties are sold at public auctions, while others are listed with real estate agencies or the government for purchase. Before making an offer, prospective purchasers should investigate the property's current state and any needed maintenance. To make sure the home can be lived in again after the repairs are done, it is also vital to double verify with the local authorities.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1005017 — On Jun 02, 2021

After the government condemns a property what do they typically do with it? My neighbor is landlocked behind me with a right-of-way through my property. He has 30 days to clean up or his property is condemned. It will not happen. The house has a tree through the roof. He lives in his truck surrounded by trash right across his property (as close as you can get. Basically in my driveway). For years he's done nothing but drink and let the trash pile up.

So again, when the government takes a hoarder's land, what do they typically do with it?

By anon991165 — On Jun 01, 2015

What training are the people who condemn houses usually required to have? 85 homes have been condemned and torn down in the last year in our town. People are angry about it. Some question the training & credentials or lack thereof of the Code Enforcement Officer. Also, are agencies such as the EPA, DEQ and OSHA required to be notified when a pre-1978 structure is demolished?

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