Definition of "Abandonment"

Monika Wilson real estate agent

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Century 21 Sunbelt

As a legal term, abandonment defines a deliberate renunciation of rights to an asset or a business relationship.

What does abandonment mean in real estate?

In real estate, abandonment, also known as dereliction, can refer to various things. The concept of abandonment means that an owner or lessee voluntarily relinquishes or surrenders their property right. 

Still, there’s a catch. The owner in question cannot abandon their property in favor of someone else, namely a successor as proprietor or tenant. Once a court declares a property and its various adherent assets and valuables abandoned, the former owner can’t determine the new proprietor. After all, they have waived their rights in this discussion. Often, the abandoned real estate will be sold as it is.

What does it take to declare property abandoned?

A vacant lot or inactive real estate doesn’t necessarily qualify a property relinquished. Generally, it takes an overt act to prove dereliction without a doubt. And only a court can declare a property abandoned! 

First and foremost, they can establish abandonment as a fact if the owner fails to pay mortgages for the land and settle taxes for a long time. An individual or financial entity cannot claim a supposedly and recently abandoned property because the former owner fails to produce the goods the land was supposed to generate. Nor can they demand ownership based on the absence of its previous owner. 

Although a prolonged absence can’t be considered a primary and conclusive argument, it helps illustrate the owner’s lack of interest in the land for sure. The principle of the passage of time constitutes the prominent allegation judges consider and accept regarding property abandonment. Additionally, the former owner must verbally declare their concrete intentions to abandon the property on the one hand. On the other hand, the proprietor’s actions must undoubtedly point to abandonment by leaving the asset unattended and exposed to access to any unauthorized agents. The dereliction frequently results in the relinquished property being sold as it is.

Who gets the abandoned real estate?

The abandoned property can typically return to an individual who held a prior interest. In other cases, it can revert to the state when there is no apparent owner. We know this scenario as escheat.

Abandonment vs. surrender

Opposite to popular real estate misconceptions, abandonment doesn’t absolve accountability and obligations connected to a lease or proprietorship. There is but one exception, known as a surrender. The financial entity to which a debt is owed accepts the dereliction, relieving financial obligations. 

Example for property abandonment

Bob is the legal owner of a heavily battered and decaying apartment in the outskirts. Besides his blatant carelessness to his property, he’s one year and a half beyond his costs. Bob has to pay delinquent property taxes plus a two percent penalty for failing to deliver every month. Moreover, he expects to be charged a bonus twenty percent collection fee. Now, what does Bob decide? Instead of paying all the back taxes, he puts up his hands. He abandons the apartment and disclaims his ownership.

Also, consider the following scenario an instance of abandonment. A tenant renounces their rent before a fixed-term lease expires. As a result, they will lose their deposit and pre-paid rent for the final month. Secondly, they move out without informing the landlord and giving him proper notice. 

Buying abandoned real estate.

Make no mistake; you’ll find deserted houses in genuinely dreadful conditions, typically in run-down areas or neighborhoods with a bad reputation. However, they have an enticing purchase price. For this reason, abandoned homes can be an excellent investment opportunity. You can use them as vacation homes or rent them out and secure a fixed monthly income. Abandoned properties are sold as-is.

Timing is essential with short sale listings. Here’s a tip! Lending institutions can foreclose on court-ordered abandoned real estate. Before concluding a foreclosure process, banks can list abandoned properties as a short sale. Then, many investors will jump at the chance to buy the house. 

Suppose you’re interested in acquiring an abandoned property. In that case, contact local real estate agents. Feel free to use our Agent Directory! It’s filled with trustworthy agents that will not abandon your case and lend you a helping hand indeed. 

Real Estate tips:

Don’t abandon us! There’s still plenty of land for you to cover in our Glossary Terms

And feel free to use our Agent Directory! It’s filled with trustworthy agents that will not abandon your case.

Comments for Abandonment

D Quintana D Quintana said:

We are trying to foreclosure on a commercial property with our judgment liens on it. A Real Estate contract was placed on the property, now has defaulted, but there is a previous mortgage. The owner of the mortgage has been receiving higher payments, until the default. Would that be considered abandonment of the loan?

Sep 19, 2023  15:56:36

Real Estate Agent

Hello, and thank you for reaching out to us!
Financial laws vary from state to state. Suppose you're facing a complex issue involving loans, mortgages, foreclosure, and the principle of abandonment. In that case, it's advisable to consult with a financial advisor or attorney or contact the lending institution directly for guidance.

Sep 20, 2023  11:41:39
Dail Davis Dail Davis said:

My mother died and the house to her 3 children. One of the children has left everything after what furniture she wanted. My brother and I do not know where she is and stated she was never coming back and didn’t want anything else. Has she abandoned the house. We have some one that wants to buy the house. Are we legally allowed to sell the house

Jul 11, 2023  13:17:11

Real Estate Agent

Hello Dail!

Thank you for reaching out to us! First and foremost, we recommend you turn to a real estate attorney, litigator, or probate lawyer specializing in probate cases.

Before a property can be sold, all heirs must reach an agreement. All heirs must consent to the property sale. Or a partition action before the probate clerk is needed to resolve the heirs' differences on the property's disposition.

Jul 17, 2023  10:19:36
Kenneth C Brandt Kenneth C Brandt said:

I want to let a vacant lot go back to a subdivision, in lieu of paying HOA fees.

Sep 07, 2022  21:26:38

Real Estate Agent

Hello Kenneth. Your inquiry is complex; every state has its own legislation, and we recommend you seek expert advice from a real estate attorney. If the vacant lot is your property, you might consider selling it. We hope the transaction will take a fortunate turn for you!

Oct 14, 2022  04:14:09
Kevin Kevin said:

My ex and I own recreational property in Washington, she up and walked away 8 years ago and I can not find her, how do I get her off title to the property as she can not be found

Jan 03, 2022  12:14:08

Real Estate Agent

Hey Kevin! Thank you for reaching out to us. When it comes to removing someone from a real estate deed like a property title, the misconception is that one can go about this alone. Unfortunately, the legislation is relatively limited if the other party cannot sign an agreement.

You can take paths, but either will most likely end up in a court proceeding. The truth is that no one can be passively removed from a property title. Legal action and the resulting court order are the only way to remove someone from a property title forcibly. There is also the option of divorce decrees that can be applied if the two of you were married, but, again, you will need the co-owners signature. A partition action is another variant that allows the court to sell the jointly owned property, and one of the owners can buy the property at the resulting auction.

Attaining what is called a clear title is a complicated process. Suppose you intend to go through with trying to obtain the property title that only has you as the owner. In that case, we strongly suggest discussing with a real estate attorney or property law attorney that is licensed in your state. The options above are suggestions and should not be taken as legal advice.

Jan 04, 2022  11:29:45
Robin Conner Robin Conner said:

My sister and I bought a house in Burtonsville, MD. Couldn't get along. I moved and want her to buy me out or sell the home. She says she's going to get me for abandonment and get the house put in her name and take it from me. I will end up with nothing for my investment. Can she?

Aug 25, 2020  15:10:27

Real Estate Agent

Hey, Robin! It really depends on what type of ownership option you have. There is joint tenancy, where multiple owners share an equal stake in the home, there is tenancy in common where each person holds a specific percent of the home, and there is sole ownership where only one person's name is on the title of the home. Also, if you have an ongoing mortgage on the house, the outcome might be different if things are taken to the court. In this situation, we highly recommend getting in touch with a real estate attorney, and they will be able to analyze your situation more in detail and provide you with the right answer.

Sep 07, 2020  10:00:41
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