Why Does Property Get Condemned
When a house is condemned, it can mean that government is seized for public use, such as widening a street. A condemned house often refers to a building inspector’s determination that the space violates local or state building codes. Thereafter the local Department of Health may declare it unfit for human habitation or use.
If the housing inspector says that part or all of a building you’re living in is condemned, it must be closed up. You aren’t legally required to move if your local board of health condemns the house or building. After a judge orders you to vacate the premises, you must move.
If you’re wondering about the how’s and why’s to condemn a house, the reasons include damage, poor construction, health hazards, and other issues.
Signs of Damage
If trauma caused by extreme weather or fire comprises the structural integrity of a house, it can be condemned. Damage from hurricanes, snow storms, and floods can make cleaning or repairing the property impossible.
A new building probably won’t get condemned, but an old building may reveal its poor construction. The building may have been constructed with now-banned materials or the original construction didn’t use the proper materials. In either case, the building’s rafters, pylons, support beams, or foundation may be comprised.
An old or crowded building may also be more prone to contamination or infestation. Either may be a sufficient reason to condemn the house. For instance, black mold may warrant condemning the house because it causes health and respiratory problems to residents. Termite or rodent infestations might not be correctible.
Based on its history, a building may pose a chemical threat. For example, if the building was once used to manufacture or store illegal drugs or produce toxins, it may pose safety and health dangers to its occupants. Hygiene issues may result in a building when a resident has a hoarding disorder. It may be unsafe to clean and sanitize the structure as a result.
A dilapidated, unhygienic, and vacant house may prompt complaints from other community residents. A home in poor condition can cause surrounding property values to decline. The property in poor condition creates a safety hazard when it tempts squatters or transients to enter. If the property is past the point of worthwhile repairs, the community may arrange for demolition.
All kinds of structures can be condemned. Part or all of the house or building may be condemned. Both residential and commercial properties may be condemned. Hidden hazards of the condemned property may require the need to remove large amounts of debris. Demolition services may be needed. Cleanup and resurfacing may be necessary to prepare the site for future needs.
Fight a Condemnation
Owners or residents may wish to fight a condemnation of a home or building. In that case, you are required to attend a condemnation hearing. You receive notice of the hearing from the Board of Health. The hearing is considered an emerging situation, so you won’t get lots of advance notice about it.
At the hearing, an occupant, landlord, or anyone else affected by the house condemnation has the right to speak out against it. If you’re a tenant, you might present documents or witnesses that support your case as to why the building shouldn’t be condemned. Challenge the condemnation order by showing the building is structurally sound and will be safe if specific repairs are made. Experts, such as structural engineers, can appear to testify about the integrity of the property at the condemnation hearing.
However, if an inspector believes that the condition of the building presents immediate danger to inhabitants, tenants will be ordered to immediately vacate via written determination. In that case, they may be denied a condemnation hearing.
If the Board of Health issues an Order to Condemn, you may challenge it in court:
- Ask the judge to order the necessary repairs to avoid condemnation if you or the owner has sufficient funds to repair the building and if the building doesn’t pose danger to workers performing repairs.
- Ask the court to require the landlord to make necessary repairs to avoid condemnation if you’re a tenant.
- Ask the court to appoint a receiver to oversee the management and repair of the property when the landlord can’t pay for repairs.
If you get an order for repairs to be made and the building is saved from condemnation, you’ll need to leave while repairs are performed. Ask the court to order the landlord, town, or city involved in condemning the property to pay for interim lodging for you and your household members. Request a daily allowance to help pay for meals while you’re displaced.
If the owner doesn’t make required repairs within a year of the issued Order to Condemn, the building may be demolished. It’s important to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible if this happens to you.
It may be necessary to vacate the condemned building. In that case, the town or city must provide vacating occupants with financial assistance for moving expenses. If you’re forced to leave an apartment because of Sanitary Code violations, you may also ask for emergency assistance from the Department of Transitional Assistance office (TANF). You may also apply to the local housing authority for emergency housing at that time.