Need Legal Aid Help? Get Started

What to do about blighted properties?



Is there a house on your street that nobody is taking care of? Is a house being used for criminal activity? Or maybe a neighbor is living in a house that isn’t safe? There are things you can do to address a blighted house on your block.

The first step is to call the City of Cleveland (216-664-2000) and enter a complaint. (This article focuses on what to do in Cleveland, but you can take a similar approach in any city). When you call, have the address of the property and the full list of information you would like the City to know. When you call, ask for a reference number. The reference number will allow you to call back and check up on what the City has done in response to your complaint.

What the City does next (and how quickly) depends on the nature of the complaint. If nobody is living at the house, and the issue is related to the physical condition of the house, the Department of Building and Housing is called. Building and Housing tries to send an inspector within 2-4 weeks. The Inspector will inspect the property to see if the complaint is accurate. If so, the City will issue a violation notice. If the City has to do anything – like cutting the grass or boarding up the house – the owner of the property will be charged the fees. If the nature of the complaint involves the health and welfare of people, the City may send out the Health Department, the Police, and even emergency services. If the owner of the property does not resolve the issue, the City of Cleveland can refer the case to the Law Department to begin legal proceedings against the owner.

Concerned neighbors have little control over this referral process. Your involvement may be limited to making the initial phone call and following up. Because of this, another good option is to call the Councilperson in your ward and work with them to resolve the issue.

There are a lot of blighted homes in Cleveland, so sometimes property issues take a long time to resolve. Persistent and creative engagement by you and your neighbors can help make your block better.

This article was written by Rebecca Maurer and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!