Definition of "Dereliction"

Andy Daniel real estate agent

Written by

Andy Danielelite badge icon

Keller Williams

The definition of dereliction is the intentional property abandonment or desertion with no hope of returning or recovery of a property. Dereliction is the act of abandonment, neglect of responsibilities. The dereliction meaning describes a derelict real estate that the owner abandoned, which becomes a derelict building or an abandoned building.


A derelict building is the dereliction of real estate or construction that has been deserted or abandoned by the owner. The definition of a derelict building is a real estate that is vacant, unused, and unoccupied. Some of these homes might be cheap to purchase, but they could also be haunted after years of neglect. Would you live in a haunted house if the price was right? The word derelict describes a house that the owner deserted, and people can also refer to it as an abandoned building. 

Why do owners derelict buildings?

Real estate dereliction is something that is, unfortunately, too familiar in the US with ghost towns popping up in some parts of the country. We don’t mean to say that every other owner abandons their homes, but there are areas where you can find a derelict building or two. These buildings aren’t only detached-family homes, but they can also be large business locations. 


Considering this, we can’t help but wonder exactly what can cause an owner to leave a property in such a state of disrepair. So we’ll look at the most common factors that lead to a building’s dereliction, either by a family or by a corporation.


  • Expensive Renovation and Repair - in many cases, the expenses necessary to restore a property is above what the average American can spend. Renovations or the entire replacement cost of a building is just too expensive and possibly more expensive than merely moving somewhere else.
  • Environmental Issues - with new regulations, homeowners and businesses must change certain aspects of the building. Septic tanks, old wiring, asbestos, lead-infused paint are all things that require modification nowadays, and to refurbish such an estate. The owner can spend more than they would on building a new house.
  • The Neighborhood - investors or businesses that move away can affect a neighborhood’s attractiveness, and people are less likely to move in an area that is dying. With nothing to attract new owners or renters, landlords stop investing in their properties as they know they will not get their investment back through the monthly rent.
  • Reluctance to Sell - when an owner dies, if the families are reluctant to sell but do not inhabit the home, in time, the house will decay and deteriorate.
  • Foreclosure - when the owner is upside down with their mortgage, they might face foreclosure in which situation if nobody buys the property, it might be left vacated for a prolonged period of time.

Why do derelict buildings decay?

There are many different reasons why derelict real estate can reach several states of decay. The decay can happen on different timelines and levels depending on the environment that they are exposed to. Just like a cliff that is shaped by water and wind over time, those same elements can affect a building as well. But climate and environment damage buildings in different ways. In a mild climate, a house is less prone to dampness, mold, or moisture damage, but in a tropical one, mold can affect a building in a short period of time. But let’s take a look at the exact reasons that lead to a derelict real estate’s decay.


  • Abandonment - no one takes care of an abandoned building. In time this can lead to the structure’s demise as even a cracked window can have a massive impact on the building. Moisture can creep inside, mold can settle, the wooden beams can be affected, and the ball keeps rolling down from there.
  • Weather - this is an obvious one, but when a home goes through winter with no heating, autumn with no water repairs, then summer comes, the change from cold to hot then cold again can affect the structure of the house.
  • Nature - a cracked window, a crack in the wall can lead to seeds finding their way into a house (birds help with this), and in five years, a seed can turn into a bush or a small tree in the middle of what was once the living room.
  • Human interference - vandalism, breaking in, squatting (homeless people living in abandoned houses) can also lead to a building’s collapse over time, especially if the area around it is also in bad shape.

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