What happens when someone abandons a property and it falls into disrepair?

My next door neighbor moved out back in October, walking away from his mortgage and essentially abandoning the property. The house is in terrible shape (it always has been), and this weekend we called the police when we heard the sound of rushing water coming from it. Sure enough, a pipe was broken and flooded the basement to about a foot of water or so. We also found that a window had broken and it seemed someone broke in, though the police weren’t sure if it was a burlgary or if there were squatters living there.

The police said they see houses like this a lot—the bank isn’t interested in the house because of the condition it’s in. It’s essentiallly unsellable, and the family that lived there was likely underwater on their mortgage because the property is in such awful shape.

So the police and fire dept. got the water shut off and left. So what happens now? There’s a house with broken windows for all sorts of animals to come in through, and a foot of water in the basement. Does the bank have any responsibility to take care of this once it’s been abandoned? Once spring gets here, I imagine the lawn will grow out of control as well.

Your jurisdiction may have eyesore ordinances, requiring maintenance and lawnmowing etc., at the risk of condemnation, followed by demolition or sale. You can certainly alert the relevant authorities (start with the building inspector) about it, and campaign for such laws to be passed if they don’t exist. Your neighbor may also no longer be paying real estate tax, which is something else that can let your jurisdiction proceed with seizing it. That’s another question for City Hall.

The actual answer might vary by state, or even by community. Do you feel comfortable sharing your location?

Also I’ve taken the liberty of reporting the thread for a possible forum change.

The thread could stay in the Pit if it were rewritten as a rant against the neighbor and the bank.

Not really ranty, and the OP seems like they’re looking for actual advice - I’m moving to MPSIMS.

A similar thing happened to me a couple of years ago. House next door got sold to a young couple, but evidently they decided that having babies was more important than making mortgage payments. They ended up getting evicted in February by the mortgage holder; shortly thereafter, a notice was put on the front door that XYZ Property Management was in charge of maintaining the property.

However, as spring arrived and the weeds started growing, nothing happened. I called the Property Management company and they told me that they couldn’t do anything until six months had passed from the time of eviction. And the property was still owned by young couple with babies. I then called the city environmental officer; he contacted young couple (who were renting a house across town) and told them that they needed to mow the lawn.

Of course, that didn’t happen, so the neighbor on the other side of the eyesore and I decided to mow it ourselves. We did this several times until the six-month period had passed, and then a lawn service was contracted to take care of the mowing.

Fortunately, the house has now been sold to a responsible party, and life is good again in the 'hood.

If it were me, I would call the inspector, as Elvis suggested, or even the mortgage holder. That information is public record.

Call the Code Compliance department of your city and ask them about the house. Typically, the CC department is the one who would address these kinds of issues about maintenance. Property maintenance is typically covered in the city code regulations. The CC department will have the power to start levying fines if the house is not brought up to code. That may encourage reluctant property owners/managers to fix up the property.

I don’t actually know who the mortgage holder is. I do know that a guy stopped by back in early November and he was looking around the property. He asked if anyone lived there, I told him they had moved out. I asked if he was from the bank and he said yes.
So the bank likely knows they’ve moved, but they haven’t been by to put any signs up or locks on the door or anything.

So the bank may not own it yet? You could go to City Hall and inquire about lien status, as that is public information. Once the bank has completed foreclosure, they’ll be happy to get it off their hands quickly - they’re money people, not real estate managers, and they’ll take the first reasonable offer even if it’s at some loss. Then let the flippers do their work, and things will be fine in a few months.

My city can post a sign on your lawn that you need to mow it by (date), or else the DPW will send a crew to do it and add the fee to your taxes. Don’t pay that, and the city can foreclose.

Sadly it doesn’t take long for crackheads to find abandoned properties.

There’s several suspected crack houses in a neighborhood close to me. Some have obvious burn marks from fires.

My city has condemned many abandoned homes and torn them down. It takes awhile to go through all the red tape.

Would the home owners still be on the hook if there were unpaid property taxes? I suppose the bank couldn’t do anything more than foreclose on the house, and sell it for whatever they could get. But could the city still go after them, even if they abandoned the property?

I am sure there is a lot of red tape, but the longer it goes on, I would think the closer the value of the property would be to the cost of the lot, minus the cost of demolition.


This is going to be a matter of public record. Some counties have these records online; for others you have to visit a local office–for example the Recorder’s Office.

The city or county can foreclose and take ownership too. What enforcement power did you think they had?

I’m in Toms River, NJ.

Which is where I intended to put it, but apparently have too many tabs open and used the wrong one when writing this. Thanks.

I suspect (glad this thread isn’t in GQ) that the only hold the city has is against the property itself, and the threat to seize it. Once the (soon to be former?) owners have relinquished ownership or had it taken from them, the new owner is probably the one on the hook for any back property taxes or fees. Perhaps they can negotiate something with the city.

I don’t think this sort of thing would happen in a hot real estate market. Where I live, San Francisco, it’s not unusual for the lot to be worth more than the structure on it, so the cost of tearing down would be more than covered by the rise in value due to any new structure. Derelict and abandoned houses are virtually unknown here. It’s one of the few advantages to living in this crazy city.

I was wondering if the city or county had any recourse beyond foreclosure. If they owed $10K in back taxes, and the lot only sold eventually for $5K, would they be on the hook for the extra $5K?


Township has a website to file such complaints, which I just did. I’ll post back if I hear anything.

Looks like your town has a complaint portal at the bottom of the Housing & Property Maintenance page:


Maybe start there, or call the office directly.

edit: is helpful to read the whole thread before responding.

I’m wondering the opposite. What happens if they owe ten thousand in unpaid property taxes and the property itself is worth fifty thousand? If the government seizes the house for unpaid taxes, can they sell it for its full value or do they have to only sell it for the amount that’s owed? If they sell it for fifty thousand, does the government get to keep the extra forty thousand above what it was owed? Or do the people who weren’t paying their taxes get to keep what’s left over after the taxes are taken out? If the government is limited to selling the property for only the ten thousand it’s owed, what happens when several people want to buy it at that price?