To keep one blighted property from turning into two or more, maintain your own property. "Don't get too discouraged just because you have one or two abandoned properties on the block," says Chris Smith, director for Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago in the city's Roseland office. "If every other property on the block is in pretty good shape, chances are the (foreclosed) property won't stay vacant for too long."
Form a neighborhood watch to head off potential problems, says John Anderson, co-owner of Twin Oaks Realty Inc., in Crystal, Minn. "Once the pipes get stolen or it becomes vandalized, it becomes harder to sell and it becomes a bigger detriment to the neighborhood," says Anderson. And always keep the police informed if you see criminal activity.
Speak up, fast
"If (neighbors) see code violations -- a broken window; tall, dry weeds; trash in the yard -- any of those things -- we recommend they report them as soon as they see them," Crowley says. "You don't want it to sit and get worse, especially if it's a vacant property."
Sometimes an eyesore can turn into a health or safety hazard, with vacant properties attracting squatters or becoming hot spots for illegal activity, such as drug dealing. If you suspect that a vacant or abandoned property poses such a risk, notify authorities immediately. And the more folks you can get on your block to complain about an abandoned property, the better the chances something will get done sooner rather than later.
"Everyone on that block needs to call (the authorities) on the same day, within the same hour. And if nothing happens, do the same thing again the next day," says Smith, who says that with this tactic, at least in Chicago, it usually takes fewer than three days for police to come out and board up and secure an abandoned property. With a single phone call, that same abandoned property could remain open for a while.