What to do about a vacant house that is causing damage to an adjacent property?

My sister has an empty house next door and her house has gotten a lot of damage from it. She now has water coming in from the rain and this has stopped her hot water heater from working. She is unable to get homeowner’s insurance because of this house. How does she get help or who does she contact? Licensing and Inspections say they have already closed up the house, so there is nothing else they can do. No taxes have been paid in 15 years. Can this house be taken down?

Asked on September 9, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Interesting question.

Your sister should go down to the county tax records and see who the owner is for the adjacent parcel and obtain his or her mailing address. Once obtained, your sister should try calling the person to speak about the problem or if unsuccessful, write him or her about the problem seeking a way to have it resolved.

If no taxes have been paid on the property for fifteen years, your sister should inquire if the county will be having a tax sale on it and if so, she might be able to purchase it for a relatively low price and if so, her problem is resolved.

She could also sue the owner of the house for maintaining a nuisance and for causing damages to her property.

Since there has apparently been no one around on the next door property for years, your sister could start using self help to protect her property by diverting water from her parcel back to the problem parcel, keeping weeds down, doing upkeep and even paying its property taxes to set up a situation for a prescriptive easement or adverse possession (five year requirement).

I suggest that she consult with an experienced real estate attorney to explore the suggestions outlined above.

Good luck.

 


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