What to do When a House is Condemned In Pennsylvania

A house that has been condemned has its windows shut with plywood.

Do you know what to do if you own a condemned property? A condemned house is one the government has taken over for public use, either due to laws that allow them to do so, such as eminent domain, or because the home is unfit for human habitation. 

If the government has deemed your house condemned, continue reading to learn your options. 

What Happens When a House Is Condemned?

The government can condemn private property when it is no longer safe to live in. If the home has not had anyone living in it for a considerable period, local authorities may condemn it, especially if the owner has abandoned it. 

Similarly, the municipality may condemn a home if it is unsafe to live in due to code violations or its overall dilapidated state. A house that is crumbling or has structural damage, black mold, a significant infestation problem, or unsafe living conditions may become a condemned property

If your home is a safety hazard, the government will typically issue a notice of condemnation and put that up on the front door, warning people not to enter the condemned building. 

It’s important to note that the federal and local government can actually condemn your home even if it isn’t unsanitary and is perfectly safe to live in. Usually, this is through the power of eminent domain, a constitutional law which allows the government to take over your property for public projects. 

For example, the government might be building a bridge, highway, or conservation project, and your home might be in the way. In that case, a government entity can take over your private property, providing they reimburse you for the fair market value of your home. It’s shocking to many people, but that’s the law. 

While the government will determine the reimbursement value itself, you can also dispute it by hiring your own inspector to assess your property. However, as a homeowner, it’s not easy to prevent the government from condemning your home. 

Theoretically, even private entities, such as charities, can condemn your home for public use. However, this is pretty rare, as few private entities are interested in doing so. Besides, doing that could significantly damage their reputation and public image, which private entities typically try to protect. 

A condemned status by a private entity is more likely to come from a private company that provides public services, such as a railroad company or utility company, that needs your land to build roads or other public projects. 

In a 2005 decision, the Supreme Court expanded the idea of eminent domain to allow local governments to condemn property for private economic development by including such scenarios in the definition of public use. In other words, the government can take away your home to make room for a shopping mall or any other building that would provide more tax revenue. 

If this sounds like something that worries you or the government might be about to condemn your house, you might want to sell a house fast in Pennsylvania.

A house that has been condemned has its windows shut with plywood and a “no-trespassing” sign.

Can You Live in a Condemned House?

No. If the condemned home violates building codes and code enforcement officials deem it unsafe to live in, the property owner or anyone else may not live in the house. Officials will put a notice on the door stating that the place is unsafe for anybody to live there. You will have to vacate the property if you are currently living there. 

Not only is living in a condemned home illegal, but it’s unsafe. If there is structural damage or unsanitary living conditions, your health and life could be at risk if you continue to live there. 

However, you may be able to move back into the home once you make the necessary repairs. If you can’t afford to make those repairs or refuse to do so, the government may require you to demolish the home. In addition, the house might attract trespassers and squatters. 

Once squatters are living on the property, renovating the home and removing the condemnation notice becomes considerably more difficult. That’s why you shouldn’t delay if you receive a condemnation notice and don’t want to give up on your home. 

Can You Sell a Condemned House?

Selling a condemned house is not easy, but it’s not impossible, either. Some real estate investors would be willing to buy your home, despite its dilapidated and condemned status. 

They have the money to demolish your home and build a nicer one. Perhaps they plan on building a new home and then selling it, or maybe they plan on using the new home as a rental property to generate monthly income from renters. 

Alternatively, depending on the condition of your home and the specific code violations, they may be able to repair it and make it safe and livable again. Most of the time, though, the buyer will have to demolish the home entirely. 

Because of that, they will be paying for the property only, not the house. Also, since demolition costs money, the property will typically sell for less than it otherwise would. 

If the government condemns the property because it plans to use it for a public project, selling it isn’t typically an option. Nobody will want to touch the property, even real estate investors who usually buy condemned houses for cheap. 

While fighting a condemnation notice is possible, it’s not easy. You will have to prove that the value of keeping the home is greater than that of the public project. That may apply if the house is a historic building, for example. In most cases, you will most likely lose your appeal, and the process is costly and complicated. 

Can You Repair a Condemned House?

You may be able to reverse the condemned status of the home by making repairs and negotiating with the government

It’s not always easy, though. The government may give you a list of repairs, ranging from minor electrical and plumbing issues to extensive structural repairs that can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. 

You should also document all the work you do to repair the home. For example, take before and after pictures and keep receipts from contractors you hire to restore the house. The government will have to send another inspector to ensure that the home is safe to live in again before it can remove its condemned status. 

If you are a buyer interested in buying a condemned house, there are a few things worth considering. First, you may have to obtain government approval to buy the house. For the government to grant that, you may have to show that you have the funds and means necessary to make the repairs within a specific timeline. 

There is also the risk of additional damages showing up, which the government inspector may have missed. 

Also, a condemned house that its owners abandoned for a long time may have liens on it. The owner may have abandoned the home because they couldn’t afford to pay their debts, and you may be required to pay off those loans if you wish to buy the house. 

It may be wiser to look for cheap condemned houses that you need to demolish entirely, as long as you have the funds necessary to pay for the property in cash and then rebuild. 

How To Sell a Condemned House

Selling a condemned house isn’t easy, which is why you should avoid using a realtor. Most real estate agents won’t be interested in helping you sell your property, for a good reason – finding a buyer will be difficult. 

It’s best to look for cash home buyers in Philadelphia willing to purchase your home. One of the challenges of buying a condemned house is securing funding. Traditional banks and lenders won’t approve the property for a mortgage. 

On the other hand, cash home buyers have the funds to purchase your home upfront. Of course, you won’t be able to sell your home for as much as it used to be worth, since the buyer must invest a lot of money into repairs or demolishing and rebuilding your home. 

However, it’s better than just letting the government take it. At the very least, you will get some money out of your property and won’t have to spend money upfront on repairs. 

In general, cash buyers buy homes as-is. For example, cleaning a hoarder’s house before selling isn’t typically a requirement when selling to cash buyers, just like renovating condemned houses isn’t.

Another advantage of selling to a cash buyer is the speed at which you can close the deal. You will also avoid additional costs to sell a house, as cash home buyers typically don’t add fees or commissions on top of the sale price. However, there are some fees you may still have to pay, such as attorney fees. 


We buy houses Chester for cash. If you own a damaged house and can’t afford the renovations and repairs, contact us. We’ll give you a quote based on the home’s fair market value, and you can close on your schedule. You’ll be able to get the house off your hands with minimal hassle. 

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