04 Jan What is a condemned house or a condemned property?
In the real estate world, the word “condemned” means specifically that the government is seizing property. There are two primary reasons that a house or property may be condemned, and they couldn’t be more different.
The first reason that a house can be condemned is the one most people think of when they hear the term – when the government considers the home to be unfit for human habitation. There are many things that may cause a house to be considered unfit. A key one is structural damage – whether there were poor construction materials used when the building was originally erected, fire or floods causing damage to the building, or collapsed roofing leaving tenants exposed to the elements, this sort of damage can be dangerous to anyone in the house.
Extreme pest situations, such as termites, bedbugs, and in some cases, rats or mice, can also cause a building to be considered unfit, as these pests can pose health hazards to tenants, and in the case of termites, lead to a weakened structure of the building.
Inability to safely clean a house of any toxins or hazards – a situation that most often arises from the presence of industrial toxins, black mold, or the production of illegal drugs in the house, is another common cause of properties being condemned. When drugs such as methamphetamine are made in a building, the chemicals used can cling to the building materials and can cause health damage for years afterward. This may also happen in extreme cases of hoarding disorders – someone hoarding items or animals may do enough damage to a property that it cannot be brought back to a safe condition without risking the health of the people doing the cleaning.
These are some of the more common causes of condemnation, but the list is not exhaustive. Any of these situations can leave a house unfit for habitation, at which point it may be condemned by the local government. A health and safety inspector comes to look at the house, usually after a complaint is made, and does an assessment.
Buildings that lack running water, cannot be repaired without shutting down electrical service, or have mold or pest problems affecting areas like the kitchen may also be in violation of codes. In these cases, there is usually a hearing, after which a judge orders the house to be evacuated from any tenants and the house is ordered to be repaired. When owners are unable to afford these repairs, the city will often seize the property and demolish the house themselves.
If you are renting out your property, condemnation is a major setback – required repairs are often time-consuming and expensive if they can be made at all, and there will be no rental income until the property is deemed safe again.
The other case in which houses or properties are seized is when the government exercises its right to eminent domain – for example if a highway is being built and your property is in the area that will need to be cleared to accommodate it. In cases like this, the government is required to reimburse property owners for their property. In both situations, owners are often able to sell their condemned properties to a third party before a seizure, avoiding expensive repairs or legal proceedings and negotiations with local governments.