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Cleaning Up the Mess: What Neighbors Can Do About Abandoned Homes

Posted December 21, 2021
3:05 pm

Many Cleveland neighborhoods still suffer from the negative effects of the 2008 Housing Crisis. An urgent concern for many in low to moderate income neighborhoods is the large number of abandoned, condemned, and vacant residential properties.

Unfortunately, Cleveland’s City Building and Housing Department does not have the resources to address every property in serious disrepair. Making matters worse, many of these properties are owned by out of town limited liability companies (LLCs). Some out of town LLCs allow their properties to fall into ruin, which lowers property values and increases criminal activity.

There is no easy solution to this issue. In many cases, rehabilitation costs are too high for individuals and neighborhood-based nonprofit organizations. However, there are things that residents can do to help eliminate these problem properties in their communities.

The first thing to do if there is a vacant, abandoned, or condemned property on your street is to note the property’s address and take a few pictures of the property. Do this from the street on a cell phone camera. DO NOT attempt to go onto these properties or enter these structures. Once you have pictures and the property’s address, call the City’s Building & Housing Department at 216.664.2007 and make a complaint. Keep a record of when you called, who you spoke to, and your complaint number. Find out if the City is prosecuting the property owner in Housing Court. If so, ask for the case number and the name of the prosecutor assigned to the case. Then contact the prosecutor to see if you can help in the case. The more residents who call and complain about a property, the more likely the City will act to fix the problem.

The second thing you can do is reach out to your local community development corporation (CDC). CDC employees might be able to give you additional information about who owns the property, its tax status, any current code violations, and if the City is prosecuting the property owner in Housing Court. With this additional information, you can also call your City Councilperson and complain. Keep trying. Sometimes it takes more than one call to get an answer.

If you’ve taken all these steps but the problem still hasn’t been solved, you may want to talk with an attorney about what else you can do. In some cases, you may be able to sue a property owner for “nuisance abatement.” These cases can take a long time, and you may have to pay legal fees, but they are sometimes the last, best hope for successful, direct citizen action.

Written by Z. Germaniuk, Esq.

This article was published in Legal Aid's newsletter, "The Alert" Volume 37, Issue 2, in Winter 2021. See full issue at this link: “The Alert” – Volume 37, Issue 2 – Legal Aid Society of Cleveland (

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