What happens to a condemned house in Phoenix?
A house in Phoenix is condemned after the government has determined that it is no longer fit to inhabit. This usually happens as a result of unsafe housing code violations.
Hundreds of vacant homes are reported for violations in Phoenix every year, but actual condemnations are relatively uncommon in the metro area. Scottsdale, for example, condemns only about two houses a year, according to the city’s building-inspection supervisor. Condemning a property is considered a last resort.
Once a house has been condemned, no one is allowed to live in it or use it until the owner can show that the violations have been fixed. As long as the problems go uncorrected, the house cannot be occupied.
Why is a house condemned?
A house or other building could be condemned for several possible reasons:
- The building has been vacant and boarded up for a period of time, often more than 60 days.
- Utilities have been disconnected.
- 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
According to the Neighborhood Services Compliance office, about half of the investigated cases are quickly remedied without the need for condemnation proceedings. Most Phoenix property owners complete the necessary repairs within a few weeks of receiving the initial violation notice.
If a property owner fails to address the necessary repairs, the city of Phoenix typically pays a contractor to fix the problems and then imposes a property lien against the costs.
If the owner makes a repair agreement and then goes through a code compliance process and inspection, it’s possible to reverse a condemned status.
What are the code requirements for housing?
Phoenix residents can report a vacant home or code compliance on the city website. In general, a livable 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.
A house can also be condemned when it is situated in a location designated for public use or construction.
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.
Compensation for condemned houses
In a case of eminent domain, 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.