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Simple Tips for Life’s Unpredictable Moments

8 Ways to Help Your Neighborhood

Tired of looking at unkempt foreclosures in your area? Learn how to save your block without putting yourself or your property at risk.

An empty home has more issues than poor curb appeal. Kids may go exploring in and around it, risking injury. And as time passes, the property also can attract wild animals and/or vandals — putting the whole neighborhood at risk. Here’s what you can do:

1. Work with your neighborhood organization.
A collective voice, like that of a neighborhood organization, is louder and more effective than a single one, especially when it’s asking a local government or mortgage company  to take action.

The neighborhood crime watch concept is one model of a group focused on monitoring and maintaining vacant properties. Learn more about watch programs from the National Neighborhood Watch program.

2. Notice the warning signs.
Neighbors are often the first to notice the subtle signs of a vacancy, such as:

3. Be diligent about protecting your home.
Neglected properties attract crime and are fire hazards. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 6 percent of residential fires are in vacant buildings. Protect your own home by keeping doors and vehicles locked, installing motion lights, and making sure smoke alarms are in working order.

4. Determine the owner of record.
To ensure property maintenance, contact the person or agency responsible for the vacant home. If the property is up for sale, identify the owner or the real estate agent. Or, if  it’s in foreclosure, call the mortgage company that holds the title. The city or county recorder or assessor will have records of property ownership.

5. Call the authorities.
If you see anything that seems suspicious or potentially dangerous, call the police.

6. Know the local regulations.
Cities have public nuisance regulations and laws addressing property maintenance. Some require owners to register their vacant properties and pay an annual fee that can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. The fees help cover any government costs to care for a property, while encouraging the owner to rehabilitate or sell the property. Brush up on local laws through your local government’s website or consult your elected city representative.

7. Do it yourself . . . but only as a last resort.
If a property owner or city won’t address maintenance issues such as mowing the lawn or clearing snow, your neighborhood organization may need to. However, don’t act until you have exhausted efforts to get the owner of record or the city to respond. Getting written permission from the owner is one way to protect yourself.

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