"Blighted property" is the legal term for land that is in a dilapidated, unsafe, and unsightly condition. Each state uses different criteria to determine whether property should be classified as blighted. Common criteria include:
- The property is uninhabitable
- The property is unsafe
- The property has been abandoned for a specified time period (usually at least 1 year)
- The property presents an imminent danger to other people or property
Virtually every state, county, and urban locality has a law regarding blighted property. If blighted property is a problem in your area, it should be reported to the proper local government body. Depending on where you live, this could be the city or town hall, they mayor’s office, or the Department of Housing. Some larger municipalities even have task forces dedicated specifically to the issue of blighted property. A representative of your city or town hall should be able to inform you of who to notify.
Local authorities will typically investigate the property to determine if it meets the legal criteria for being considered blighted. The owner of the property will be found, notified, and given the chance to make voluntary repairs to correct the problems. If the owner does not comply voluntarily, local authorities can then correct the problem themselves, and bill the owner of the property for the costs involved.
If you are the owner of property that is determined to be blighted, there are several options you have. If the repairs needed to correct the violations are relatively minor, the easiest solution is to make the repairs voluntarily. If the repairs are extensive, many localities offer loans and tax abatement to assist you in making the repairs.
However, if you disagree with the finding that your property is blighted, you should contact a property lawyer. A lawyer can help you determine the appropriate method of appealing the decision. Additionally, if the locality makes repairs to your property, they will take you to court to recoup their costs, and you will need an experienced attorney to help defend your case.