“Burned Down Eyesore” in Neighborhood

Question: We live in a nice Gilbert neighborhood. Last year the home next to us burned down. The California owner of the home emailed us that he has no immediate plans to either build a new home, or sell to a buyer who will build a new home. The Town of Gilbert says that, unless there are safety issues, e.g., problems with the current chain-link fence around the burned down home, the Town of Gilbert can do nothing. This burned down home is an eyesore and will eventually lower property values in our neighborhood. Is there anything that we can do?

Answer: Under common law, a “nuisance” can be created by a neighboring property, e.g., odors from a landfill or ashes from a factory chimney. Although doubtful, you should consult a lawyer to see if this “burned down” home could be a nuisance.

Note: A major advantage of an HOA is that a “rogue” homeowner, who doesn’t care about other homeowners in the community, can be made to care.  In other words, the CC&Rs of most HOAs would probably require the owner of the “burned down” home to conform to property appearance requirements, e.g., tear down the home and then landscape the vacant lot with grass and shrubbery. For example, in a prominent Paradise Valley community the HOA required the owner of an unfinished home that had been under construction for several years (with numerous builders and architects) to at least complete the exterior of the home.

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