A vacant home causes nearby houses to lose between 3% and 5% of their value. That may not seem like a lot until it’s your house. If you live right next door, the damage is even worse.
Professor Dan Immergluck estimates that “the one-time property value loss imposed on properties within 500 feet of a distressed or vacant property ranges from a ‘best reasonable’ estimate of $153.2 million to a ‘very conservative’ estimate of $55.4 million,” or about $63,000 per property.
Vacant homes are a particularly big problem in many cities. For instance, in the City of Atlanta, where RealtyTrac estimates that roughly 20% of all homes are vacant. Some metro Atlanta realtors are saying that the issue is getting worse, with an estimated 60 percent of these properties hosting “squatters.”
So what recourse do you have if you live near a vacant home?
What to Do if You Live Near a Vacant Home
The first thing you need to understand is the difference between vacant and abandoned. Just because no one is living in the home does not mean it is legally vacant. It could be undergoing renovations, for example.
However, if no new work has been performed in at least 30 days, no one is living there, and the utilities are disconnected, then it is probably abandoned, in which case you can follow the steps below.
- Don’t Trespass
Whatever you do, don’t trespass on the property! If the grounds are accumulating trash and the weeds are growing out of control, it can be tempting to take the situation into your own hands. From a legal perspective, and for your own safety, do NOT do this.
- Contact the Property Owner
Many state laws assert that the owner of a vacant property must post a sign clearly showing their contact information, including a phone number. Many vacant homes are owned by large financial institutions that may not be aware the home is in disrepair. Call the number listed and report the issue.
- Report the Home to Authorities
If the vacant home is unsafe or is creating an unsafe environment for you and your neighbors, you can report the matter to the authorities. The city government will contact the property owner. If they do not receive a response in an appropriate amount of time, they will conduct necessary repairs or cleanup on the property themselves and place a lien on the property.
- Contact an Attorney
If these strategies do not produce the results you are looking for, contact an attorney to seek out a remedy.
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