What Happens to a Condemned Property?

Pablo Garcia

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.

Condemned properties are considered unsafe to inhabit.
Condemned properties are considered unsafe to inhabit.

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.

Condemned properties may be demolished.
Condemned properties may be demolished.

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.

Properties that have a lot of damage are usually condemned.
Properties that have a lot of damage are usually condemned.

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Discussion Comments


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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