FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is this whole thing about?
If you have recieved a letter from the the Abandoned Homes Project, that means either one of two things: Either you are currently being prosecuted by a local municipality in an Ohio housing court or, based on our research, we believe that you are "highly likely" to be prosecuted within the next 30 to 60 days. Our reseach is based, in part, on patterns that we notice while studying current housing cases, speaking with city officials, researching Google for news and press releases from city officials, speeches and lectures given by housing court judges, and news stories.
How did you get my information?
Our proprietary software is linked to multiple tiers of public records and is programmed to search municipal court records each night at midnight. Using the information we gather on newly filed housing court cases and violation notices, we then cross-reference that information with county and city records to determine which properties in close proximity to those being targeted for prosecution are also at risk. We also search for nearby properties that are known to be vacant, behind on property taxes, and/or are the subject of foreclosure. Our interns then visit those properties, take photos and notes, and then the information is sent to our partner, Veteran's Delivery Services, who specialises in locating people who have moved and serving them with legal documents.
Why should I care about a house I have not seen in years?
First, you should care because a vacant or abandoned home titled in your name can mean fines, jail, and loss of your driving priveleges. Second, abandoned homes destroy our communities. They increase crime and blight and lower property values. Just as you would not want to live next to a decaying, dangerours abandoned home, neither do the neighbors in the community you left behind. In many cases, steps can be taken to transfer the property to someone who will use it, or we can work with you to donate the property to a non-profit or local landbank. If you have no intentions of using the property again, getting it out of your name is best for everyone involved.
But I don’t own this house anymore so why are you calling me instead of the bank?
The Abandomed Homes Project's ownership records come directly from county records. In fact, the day before you received a letter from us, we double-checked county records to ensure we were targeting the correct person. If you have filed bankruptcy or were foreclosed upon by your bank and believed the property was no longer in your name, we can provide you with records that prove the house is still titled to you. Further, local housing courts use the same property records to determine who should be prosecuted.
Do you work for the City?
Absolutely not. The Abandoned Homes Project works directly with homeowners and, when necessary, provides free attorneys who we support by connecting with them valuable free resources such as appraisals, inspection reports, title reports, and rarely-used defenses to housing court prosecution. Further, we are working to reduce the power granted to cities to jail and/or excessively fine owners of vacant and abandoned homes who meet certain criteria. From circulating petitions to launching public service campaigns to lobbying state officials, we are dedicating significant resources to this fight. Though we may have current or former city officials on our board of directors, they are there for guidance only. You, our client, are we work for you are our number one priority.
How is your program funded?
The Abandoned Homes Project is funded by Parcel Revenue Corporation. Parcel Revenue builds applications that identify, track, and manage the inventory of abandoned and distressed homes within a certain geographic region. The data generated by Parcel Revenue, much of which we gather by speaking with the owners of vacant and abandoned homes, can also be used to predict which properties in a certain area may become vacant before they become vacant. This technology aims to replace the century-old method employed by local governments that react to tax delinquency and blight years after they happen with technology that is predictive.
If I want to work with the Project, what happens next?
In the upper right corner of this page, you will see a yellow "START HERE" button. Clicking that button opens our online intake form, which can be filled out in less than five minutes. After you submit your form, our system will open your case and submit the information to your caseworker who will contact you within one business day. If necessary, we will also immediately assign an attorney to your case.
That was my mom’s house and she is in a nursing home so why are you talking to me about it?
Let us answer this question by asking you a few questions: If a criminal wants to kidnap, rape, and murder a child in an abandoned home, do you think they care that your loved one left the property sitting empty to go to a nursing home? Or do gangs and drug dealers decide not to use an abandoned home to terrorize the community simply because your loved one is in a nursing home? Allowing the property to sit abandoned - especially where there are free resources available to assist you - is unacceptable and irresponsible. If your neighbor is sent to live in a nursing home or with family and abandones their home, will you be happy?
That was my mom’s house and she is deceased so why are you talking to me about it?
Did you know that under Ohio law, a property transfers to the heirs of the deceased immediately upon death - even where no deed or probate case has been filed? Ohio Revised Code 2105.06 allows just that. Why? Because years and years ago when Ohio was mostly farm land, and a family needed the farm to survive, the law was made to easily pass the farm to the children, grandchildren, or spouse. Yet, Ohio law has never been changed. If your mother, father, or grandparent owned a home in Ohio and passed away, chances are that you now own that home - and can be held legally responsible for it. Not only can the city legally prosecute you as an "interested party", but if someone is injured or hurt at the property you could also be sued.
This is not a matter you should ignore.
What if I already have my own attorney?
Great! But does your attorney specialize in housing court defense? Does he or she have a proprietary software platform that searches and finds housing court defenses based on 53 primary data points, over 200 secondary data points, and nearly twenty years of data which may be able to predict how your lien holders will react to the property becoming the subject of prosecution? Probably not.
Why should I work with the Project?
Working with the Project is completely voluntary and we will provide valuable resources free of charge. We will also connect you with other valuable resources that are paid for by us on your behalf. We have the experience and expertise to assist clients who face current or potential housing court prosecution and the vast majority of our clients resolve their cases without ever stepping into a court of law.
Are you a non-profit?
The Abandoned Homes Project is privately funded and does not solicit or accept outside contributions of any kind. We are not a charitable organization, as that term is defined by Ohio law. Therefore, we owe no one and 100% of our efforts can be focused on you, our client. No outside person or enity has any authority to regulate or govern our policies, principles, or beliefs.
Why are you calling me when I lost that house in foreclosure?
The Abandoned Homes Project's ownership records come directly from county records. In fact, the day before you received a letter from us, we double-checked county records to ensure we were targeting the correct person. If you were foreclosed upon by your bank and believed the property was no longer in your name, we can provide you with records that prove the house is still titled to you. Further, local housing courts use the same property records that we use to determine who should be prosecuted. Please do not ignore our letters simply because you believe you lost the house to foreclosure. We are 100% sure you did not and that you are still responsible for the property.
Why are you calling me when I put that house in my bankruptcy?
First, since housing court is a criminal proceeding, filing bankruptcy does not mean the city cannot prosecute you. Bankruptcy deals with the debt owed on the house, but if the title is still in your name after the bankruptcy case is over, you can still be prosecuted.
Can I really be sent to jail because I own an abandoned home?
Yes, you can. This is the reality that exists under current Ohio law, and we are working to change that for first-time offenders or for people who fall within certain categories. Our website feautures the story of 78-year old James Mader of Cleveland who was jailed for 45 days by Cleveland Housing Court. He had a heart attack while serving his sentence.
Should I contact the city directly?
It is your right to do so however we would STRONGLY recommend against it. City employees are not attorneys and its possible that anything you say or reveal could be used against you. Hiring an attorney or applying for assistance through the Abandoned Homes Project and having a free attorney assigned to your case is recommended.