How to Take Ownership of an Abandoned House?

Taking over an abandoned property can be a complex process, but it can also be a rewarding one. If you are aiming to claim ownership through adverse possession, there are several steps you can take to make the process smoother. In this article, you’ll learn the correct process for taking over an abandoned property without getting sued for any illegal act.

What is an abandoned property?

Abandoned property refers to a piece of real estate that has been left vacant by its owner for an extended period, showing no signs of being occupied or maintained. It can refer to homes, commercial buildings, and land. The owner may have intentionally left the property, or it may have been left due to financial difficulties, legal issues, or other circumstances beyond their control. Abandoned properties can pose challenges for communities and local governments, becoming eyesores, attracting criminal activity, and decreasing property values. They may also require significant repairs and maintenance before they can be occupied again, which can be costly and time-consuming. In some cases, abandoned properties may be subject to legal action by the local government or interested parties, such as foreclosure or tax sale.

What happens if the property owner is deceased?

When a property owner passes away, the property may go through various scenarios. If the owner had a will, the property would likely go through the probate process. The court validates the will, pays debts or taxes, and distributes the remaining assets, including the property, according to the will’s instructions.

If the owner does not have a will, the property will be distributed according to intestate succession laws.  This means that the deceased’s spouse, children, and close relatives are considered beneficiaries.

Estate administration may be necessary if the property is held in a trust or other legal entity, and the appointed trustee or executor handles the transfer or sale according to the estate plan’s instructions.

Once the legal process is complete, the property’s ownership will be transferred to the appropriate beneficiaries or heirs, and the proceeds from the sale will be distributed to the beneficiaries or heirs as determined by the probate or estate administration process.

What happens if you let the house remain abandoned?

Abandoned property can lead to legal issues and property damage. Local laws may require property owners to maintain their homes in a certain condition, which can result in fines or legal action if the house becomes a safety hazard. Property damage can be severe and costly to repair, negatively impacting neighboring properties and attracting crime. Squatters and trespassers can also cause further damage to the property and create safety hazards.

Additionally, if a house is left abandoned for an extended period, the owner’s insurance policy may become void or invalid. If this happens, the owner is hereby liable for any damages or injuries. Therefore, it is generally not advisable to leave a house abandoned for an extended period. If you are unable to maintain the property, it may be worth considering selling it or hiring a property management company to take care of it on your behalf.

Can you take ownership of an abandoned house?

It is possible to take ownership of an abandoned house. Adverse possession, or squatter’s rights, is a complex legal process that involves claiming ownership of an abandoned property. It requires understanding the specific laws and procedures in your jurisdiction, as well as demonstrating good faith and paying taxes. The process can range from a few years to over 20 years, with some jurisdictions requiring improvements to the property.

To successfully claim adverse possession, you must demonstrate good faith and pay property taxes during the occupation period. Notifying the property owner of your intent to claim the property or filing a legal action may also be required. Evidence of your occupation, improvements, and compliance with legal requirements, such as photographs and witness statements, is necessary.

To navigate the legal process, it is advisable to consult a real estate attorney specializing in adverse possession cases. They can provide guidance specific to your situation and help you navigate the legal process. Understanding the specific laws and procedures in your jurisdiction and seeking professional advice to ensure you are following the correct legal process is crucial.

Process to undergo when navigating the situation of an abandoned house owned by a deceased owner

Confirm ownership status

When navigating the situation of an abandoned house owned by a deceased owner, it is essential to follow a systematic process to confirm the ownership status. This process involves gathering information, such as deeds, wills, or trust documents, to establish ownership and understand the deceased owner’s intentions. Public records can be searched to find information about the property, including the owner’s name, liens, and legal description. If the deceased owner’s executor or administrator can be identified, they may have information about the property’s status. If the property is going through the probate process, the court can provide guidance on how to proceed and may appoint a personal representative to handle the property.

Contact the executor or administrator

The executor or administrator is the person named in the deceased owner’s will to handle their estate. The administrator, on the other hand, is appointed by the court when there is no will or the executor is unable or unwilling to fulfill their duties. To contact the executor or administrator, provide them with relevant details, such as the property address, condition, and contact information. If unsure about the person’s identity or authority, request a copy of the deceased owner’s will or the court appointment document.

Once established, offer cooperation and assistance in resolving the situation, such as assessing the property, securing it, or managing any outstanding issues. If difficulties arise, consult with a real estate attorney for guidance on rights and responsibilities and to help navigate the legal process. It is always best to consult with legal professionals familiar with local laws and regulations to ensure the correct procedures are followed.

Secure the property

To secure ownership, research the property to determine its ownership status and any outstanding liens or taxes owed. Contact the owner if the property is not owned by a government entity, or post a notice of intent to claim the property in local newspapers. Secure the property if it poses a safety hazard by boarding up windows and doors, installing a fence, or hiring a security company. File for adverse possession, which requires occupying the property openly and continuously for a certain period.

It is crucial to follow the proper legal procedures to avoid legal consequences, as attempting to take ownership without following the proper procedures can result in legal consequences.

Consult legal professionals

To effectively acquire an abandoned property, it is crucial to consult with legal professionals who specialize in real estate and property law. Find a reputable real estate attorney with experience dealing with abandoned properties, either through recommendations or online searches. Schedule an initial consultation with the attorney, providing all relevant details about the property and your intentions. Gather necessary documents, such as the property’s address and previous owner’s details, to help the attorney assess the situation.

Discuss legal options, such as researching the property’s ownership history, contacting the previous owner or their heirs, or initiating legal proceedings to acquire the property through adverse possession.


To acquire an abandoned property, research local laws and regulations, consult with a real estate attorney or local agent, and understand the legal process. The government may have programs to assist individuals in acquiring abandoned properties. The legal process can be complex and time-consuming, involving researching the property’s ownership history, filing legal documents, and potentially going through a court process. However, following proper procedures can ensure lawful and ethical ownership of the property.

For more information on how we can keep your Sacramento rental occupied, contact us at Eagle Property Management.

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