Last Updated on August 5, 2023 By Emma W. Thomas
Yes. One can move into an abandoned house, but you have to comply with the laws that deal with such property. You will have to confirm that the house is abandoned, find out who the owner is, and contact them. Make an offer to the owner to acquire the property or go for adverse possession.
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Can I Move Into An Abandoned House?
Moving into an abandoned house is a complicated and potentially illegal action that varies depending on the jurisdiction and property laws in your area. While abandoned houses may appear vacant and unused, they likely still have an owner or lienholder who holds legal rights to the property.
Before considering moving into an abandoned house, it’s essential to understand the legal implications and consequences. Here are some key points to consider:
- Ownership Status: Research the property’s ownership status through public records or local government offices. Determine if the property is genuinely abandoned or if it has an owner, even if they are absent or unreachable.
- Trespassing and Squatting: Moving into an abandoned house without permission may be considered trespassing or squatting, both of which are illegal in most places. Trespassing can result in criminal charges, fines, or other penalties.
- Adverse Possession: Some regions have laws related to adverse possession, which may allow someone to claim ownership of an abandoned property if they use and maintain it openly and continuously for a specific period. However, these laws typically have strict requirements and timelines.
- Homelessness and Property Rights: If you are experiencing homelessness, it is crucial to seek assistance from local shelters, government agencies, or non-profit organizations that provide support for housing needs. Relying on an abandoned property as a solution is not recommended.
- Safety and Condition: Abandoned houses may be in disrepair or unsafe due to neglect, making them unsuitable for habitation. There could be structural issues, mold, pests, or other hazards that pose risks to health and safety.
- Legal Consequences: If caught living in an abandoned property illegally, you could face eviction, fines, or even imprisonment.
Ways Of Acquiring An Abandoned Property
Many states have put in place legislation that defines the treatment of abandoned properties. However, one can move into such a house legally by doing the following;
Find Out Whether It Is Abandoned
A house that looks run down or vacant does not necessarily have to be abandoned. It is essential to find out who technically owns the house even if they don’t care or live in it. A house can never be abandoned entirely since there is always the owner’s name on the property deed. The owner could have just decided that they don’t want to have the property anymore. One could decide that it is more hassle to sell the home than it is worth.
Establish Who The Owner Is
You can easily find out about a property owner by checking the property tax record from your county. You will establish if someone is paying or who owes taxes for the house. Let the county’s tax assessor give you the owner’s contact and name. It is likely for the tax assessor to have the same address for the owner as one on the property.
You can also find out from the neighbors about the owner. While it may be hard, you can get one or two neighbors who have the information you need. You may also look for the address from the county record office. If there are liens like mortgages recorded on the deed, you may try to contact the mortgage company or the bank instead of the property owner listed on the deed.
Call The Owner
Once you have established the homeowner and their contact address, it is now time to call them and find out the house’s status. Here, you might be required to do a lot of diligence. For example, if what you have as the address is a street address, you can send a postcard. Since the owner may get their mail from a different address, the mail card will be a good option.
If a mortgage company or a bank owns the property, it could be easier to track them down. You can try to make it clear to them that you want to pay the dues.
Make An Offer
If you contact the owner, give them an offer and let them know your intention. If the property has tax arrears, you may acquire it by clearing the same. Ensure that you find out the total tax owed as this may be substantial, mostly if the owner abandoned it with huge debts. You need to conduct thorough research on the house’s title to ensure that the debts are not more than you are willing to pay.
If the bank owns the home due to foreclosure, they may want to get back as much as possible. Decide appropriately about how much you are willing to spend on the property. Make sure you account for any renovations that might be necessary before making an offer.
Try Adverse Possession
If you don’t get into contact with the owner, you may consider adverse possession. You can openly ‘squat’ on the property for several years. While this could be risky considering that the owner might show up later, you can live in the house for 5-25 years. Typically if you live anywhere for several years and the owner does not stop you, the property may become yours.
How To Find Abandoned Houses
While it is unlikely to find abandoned houses advertised in newspapers or on real estate firms’ windows, there are ways to find them. The following tips can help you find this kind of property;
Check From Your Local Government
Abandoned properties are not good for local municipalities. Local governments are usually against unoccupied homes because they reduce the number of people paying taxes hence lowering income. These homes may also attract squatters or fall into despair. The houses are also an eyesore since they have no one to take care of them. Grass and shrubs will grow tall, garbage piles up, and flies will increase, decreasing the area’s real estate market value.
If you spot such property you can conduct a simple visual inspection. Go to your local municipal manager or county clerk (also known as county assessor) and ask for property records. You will find information about the last owner of the property in these documents.
If you discover that the owner has several properties and has left one without intending to abandon it, you can call the homeowner and give an offer to buy it. You may also realize that the owner has tax arrears and is nowhere to be seen. If this is the issue, you can inquire if the state or local government offers the property for sale.
Contact Your Local Banks
Banks could also offer useful information on purported abandoned houses. A homeowner could abandon a home if they can no longer service their mortgage. The bank or mortgage institution may have initiated a foreclosure process to reclaim the property. You can check with the banks to see if the house in question is on their list of foreclosed properties.
Factors To Consider Before Purchasing An Abandoned House
Before you purchase an abandoned house, it is necessary to conduct due diligence to avert unforeseen losses. The following factors are worth considering;
Abandoned homes will most likely look shabby from the outside. They have no fresh coat of paint, and they also have overgrown shrubs and grass. But it would help if you were more concerned with latent (hidden) defects that might need significant repair. These damages may include faulty plumbing and electrical installations, structural damages, stolen fixtures, copper pipes, or rampant asbestos in the walls and ceilings.
Before making an offer to buy an abandoned house, make sure that you have the right budget in place and feature in any repairs that you are likely to undertake, including hidden ones. To be sure about any defects, you can high a certified home inspector to check the extent of damages and all innovations you need to do on the property. Consider the cost of repainting the house as well as for mowing the compound.
Having an inspector thoroughly inspect a house will give you a clear picture of everything you need to do. You must be aware that the repairs you do to the home will make it compliant with the local building code.
Abandoned property will require you to invest a lot of energy and time searching for the owner and contacting them. You will also need to get time to look for contractors and subcontractors and negotiate with them. The supervision of repair work and dealing with inspectors may also consume substantial time.
If you are too busy with other life issues, looking for and buying an abandoned home may not be a viable idea.
What Happens To An Abandoned House?
An abandoned house remains unoccupied until the government seizes it for back taxes. If the property is in foreclosure, it may take long to know which bank owns it. But, if the bank gives the home for auction, the new owner has the mandate to decide what to do with it.
If a neighborhood has several abandoned homes, it can lead to an increase in criminal activities. Drug use and sales also increase, leading to crimes such as robbery, murder, and rape. There also could be crimes that put the entire neighborhood at risk. To prevent such occurrences, one can file a complaint with the code enforcement office in your area. You can file the complaint online or visit the office in person.
The code enforcement officer is supposed to look for the property owner and let them solve the issues. Trying to get the authorities to act on the abandoned property might be time-consuming and frustrating, but one needs not give up. You can involve your neighbors and keep records of your communication. Involving many people can get the authorities to act fast and solve the problem of abandoned homes.
Sometimes homeowners may abandon their properties for one reason or another. It could be due to a foreclosure procedure by the banks. One could also have several properties and decide to leave one of them vacant.
If you want to move into such a home, it is necessary to conduct a thorough search to ensure that the house is abandoned. By visiting the local records office, one can know the owner’s address and contact them with an offer. Never assume that a house is abandoned simply because it is vacant.
Emma is a graduate of Domestic Science or Family and Consumer Sciences (Home Economics) from the University of Wisconsin. She has 7 years of experience Working with the strategic section of BestBuy and now writing full-time for Homeeon.
From Managing the Home, Interiors, Cleaning, and Exteriors to Gardening and everything about Making A Home Liveable – is her passion and this Homeeon is the result of this.
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