Can you Live in a Condemned House?

We’ve all passed one driving at some point, a house that is falling apart with a condemned sign in front of it. For those looking to invest in a property or gifted a property from a relative, a question we are often asked is can you live in a condemned house? The quick answer is no, but all hope is not lost as we here at Lucky Home Buyers, realty consultants in Towson, Md, look at what it means to have a condemned house.

What happens when a house is condemned?

Except in cases of eminent domain, condemning a home is usually a last resort taken only when all other efforts have failed to improve the condition of the building.

When a home is condemned, the owner (and tenants, if any) are notified in writing that the building must be vacated.

A sign is attached to the building stating that the dwelling is not fit for human habitation, and that it cannot be occupied.

In some areas, a condemned property may be winterized to protect against damage caused by frozen water pipes or improperly maintained utilities. The government may disconnect the gas, shut off the electric power, and drain plumbing fixtures and water pipes.

The owner of the building may be ordered to repair or demolish the building.

If you own a house that has been condemned, it’s important to respond to any complaints promptly, and seek legal advice about the best course of action to take next.


Can you Live in a Condemned House?

What does it mean when a house is condemned?

A property is condemned when a government entity deems it unsafe and/or no longer fit to live in. Once a home is condemned, it may not be inhabited again until it has been rehabilitated and inspected, if that’s even possible.

Most times, condemning a home does not mean it is a lost cause forever. Whether you can uncondemn a property depends on why it was condemned.

Grounds for condemnation?

Most condemned homes are only condemned after they have already been abandoned and the owners or residents stop adequately maintaining the property.

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are currently over 10 million abandoned residences in our country. Many of these will be well on their way to being condemned if no one steps up to maintain their care.

Regulations can vary based on municipality. Though, a home may be condemned if:

  • The house has been abandoned for an extended period; sometimes (and depending on the condition of the property), this could be as few as 180 days.
  • It is dilapidated and/or deteriorated to the point it’s no longer structurally sound.
  • It is unsafe or unsanitary.
  • The house does not have adequate utilities, such as power, water, electricity and/or sewer.

If a home is condemned, it is no longer habitable. If the problems are not fixed within a specified period usually stated on the condemned house notice, the home’s occupants will need to move out.

A home can also be condemned when eminent domain powers are exercised. This means a perfectly safe home may be forcibly gained and changed—or sometimes, even destroyed—simply because of its location.

In cases of eminent domain, public authorities seize private property, such as a home and land, if it is in an area that is to be used for certain public projects. This means if your state wants to build a highway or airport through your backyard and you don’t want to sell, they can still condemn your property. (Yes, you’ll be compensated.)

How to fix a condemned house

In many jurisdictions, the owner can negotiate a rehabilitation or repair agreement with the building authority.

After making the repairs and going through a code compliance process, which usually involves a complete inspection of the entire building, it’s possible to reverse a condemned status.

Buying a condemned house

What if you are interested in buying a property with a condemned house?

If you are simply looking to demolish the structure and build on the land, your biggest hurdle will find a lender. If possible, buy the property in cash or offer to put up as much of a down payment as possible, potentially improving your chances of approval.

If you’re looking to rehabilitate the home—either to live there yourself or even flip the house —you’ll want to do your due diligence and determine what you can afford.

Once a home is condemned, there are often added steps in order to facilitate a purchase. For instance, if the property was condemned because of safety violations, you work with a code enforcement entity when making your offer. If the property was foreclosed on, you deal with a bank rather than an owner.

Here, having a good real estate agent on your side can be precious.

Many lenders will only approve a mortgage based on the value of the property as it stands. This means that the land value, and the condemned structure’s current value are factored in, but you may need significantly more money in order to actually demolish or renovate the property.

Having a partner investor or working with a hard money lender can be a good way to purchase the property and also have the cash necessary to complete your project.

About Lucky Home Buyers

At Lucky Home Buyers, we have over 25 years of experience providing win-win solutions to help homeowners get out of their sticky situations. Issues such as foreclosure, owning a burdensome property, probate, or anything else, we focus on providing you with a compassionate solution to your situation so you can continue to do the things you love.