What Happens to a Condemned House in Dallas?
A house in Dallas is condemned when a government entity has determined that the building is no longer fit to live in. In order to be condemned, a house most usually show a pattern of unsafe housing code violations.
No one may live in a condemned building or use it until the owner has proven that the cited problems have been fixed. Until the problems are corrected, any occupants must relocate elsewhere.
Why Is a House Condemned?
According to a 2015 report and blight action plan for the city of Dallas, many condemned properties in the city often have absentee owners, and are characterized by chronic vacancy and abandonment.
There are several common reasons that a house or other building might be condemned:
- The building has been vacant and boarded up for a period of time, often more than 60 days.
- Utilities have been discontinued.
- An inspector cites specific hazards that render the building unsafe to live in.
- The building is considered dilapidated, meaning that there are no specific hazards, but the inspector has qualified it for condemnation.
A house can also be condemned because of a housing hygiene problem.
How to Fix a Condemned Status
A condemned status can be reversed in many cases. First, the owner must 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.
What Are the Code Requirements for Housing?
In Dallas, code violation complaints are investigated by the Neighborhood Code Division of the Department of Code Compliance. To be considered livable, a house must provide:
- hot water
- light fixtures
- safe electrical outlets
The owner (and tenants, if the property is rented) also have a responsibility to keep the dwelling clean, pest-free, and in good structural condition.
Even Perfectly Good Houses Can Be Condemned
The city of Dallas has the power to condemn any property inside or outside the city limits, as long it’s for a purpose that’s authorized by state law or the city charter, such as public works projects.
By law, public authorities may exercise the power of eminent domain, which allows the government to seize private land based on the location of the property, not its condition.
In this case, residential homes can be condemned – and marked for demolition or modification – to make way for public projects such as a highway, park, airport, public facility, or a private project that will serve the public good.
In 2016, the Dallas City Council changed the process of acquiring property for public projects. Now, city staff must seek Council authorization for major projects requiring property acquisition.
Compensation for Condemned Houses
In the state of Texas, eminent domain is also known as the Takings Clause. In such cases, the housing authority will usually make every reasonable effort to reach an agreement with the property owner. Because the owner must be fairly compensated for the loss of the property, the government will make a written offer of payment based on the appraised value of the seized property. This is called a pro-tanto award.
If you’ve been offered a pro-tanto award that you feel is insufficient, you can decline the payment and submit your own appraisal for the property.
In this case, it’s important to seek legal counsel promptly, because you may face a deadline to submit your appraisal for the property.
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.