secure and maintain foreclosed properties » resolve code violations » preserve or restore curb appeal

artistic boarding in Cleveland, OH
Photo credit: Chuck Crow, Cleveland Plain Dealer. Provided by Chris Toepfer, The Neighborhood Foundation,, 312-863-9111
Clear signs of abandonment can undermine neighborhood stability. Homes that are obviously vacant may be susceptible to vandalism or squatters. Nearby residents may worry about crime or declines in home prices. Families may be less likely to view the neighborhood as a strong community for their children. The result is likely to be more and more vacant homes. Preserving or restoring the appearance of a well-maintained and occupied (or at least cared for) property can have a substantial impact on the confidence of local residents and help stabilize communities.

Clean up and maintain yards

Communities can maintain curb appeal despite foreclosures by mowing lawns and removing uncollected leaflets and newspapers. If property owners neglect violation notices about
tall grass, unsightly weeds, and debris on the property, a public agency, such as the local code enforcement department, may be able to address the issue and place a lien on the property to cover the costs. If the local government isn’t already taking on basic upkeep for vacant properties, concerned neighbors and community groups may also step in and perform regular lawn maintenance and clean-ups.

Solutions in Action
Westland, Michigan’s High Grass Ordinance

A city ordinance in Westland, Michigan, restricts high grass, allows the city to hire outside contractors for mowing, and passes the costs on to the property owner. If a property owner does not pay the mowing costs, the city adds a 30 percent surcharge to the winter tax bill as a penalty.

Use artistic boarding techniques to secure properties

artistic boarding in Cleveland, OH
Photo credit: Chuck Crow, Cleveland Plain Dealer. Provided by Chris Toepfer, The Neighborhood Foundation,, 312-863-9111
If vacant properties need to be secured with plywood boards over the doors and windows, preserving curb appeal can be especially challenging. Boarding is important for securing properties, but plywood boards can also signal to passersby that the community is in decline. Boarded properties can become magnets for graffiti, vandalism, and criminal activity. Communities have begun to use artistic boarding to minimize the visual blight associated with boarded-up homes and even prevent vandalism. Boarded doors and windows can be painted so that, at a glance, they resemble typical doors and windows. Even when it is clear that the property has been boarded, artistic boarding suggests that someone cares about the property and is monitoring it. In pilot projects in Minneapolis and the Detroit-Shoreway section of Cleveland, none of the properties secured with artistic boarding were broken into. Previously around 30 percent of boarded properties in Minneapolis were broken into after boarding.

To keep properties secure and attractive for an extended period of time, communities engaged in artistic boarding should be sure that the materials used are resistant to warping and weather damage. Communities can train their code enforcement departments to do artistic boarding, contract with a firm such as NeighborServe that specializes in artistic boarding, or engage local artists to partner with boarding professionals. Artistic boarding
tends to cost around $1,000 per property, which some communities see as a worthwhile investment in reducing crime, vandalism, and repeated board-ups.

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Restore curb appeal of foreclosed properties

Other pages in this section:

Oak Grove Village
Manage the post-violation process to achieve results

Orchard Village
Engage in nuisance abatement or demolitions

Carthage Mills
Use vacant property receivership laws for rehab and maintenance

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Expand monitoring of foreclosed properties and locate owners