Navigating Code Enforcement: Preventing Fines for Vacant Property Ownership.

Owning a vacant property comes with its own set of challenges, and one of the most significant concerns is avoiding code enforcement fines. Local municipalities enact codes and regulations to ensure that vacant properties do not become safety hazards or blights on the community. To help you steer clear of potential fines, this comprehensive guide will explore effective strategies for maintaining a vacant property while focusing on the importance of boarding up the property as the first line of defense.

1. Boarding Up the Property: Your Initial Defense

When it comes to safeguarding a vacant property, boarding up the premises is your first and foremost line of defense. Boarding up a vacant property not only deters unauthorized access but also helps prevent vandalism, squatters, and other potential issues that can lead to code enforcement violations and fines.

Assessment and Preparation

Begin by assessing the property’s vulnerabilities. Examine all points of entry, including doors, windows, and any other potential access points. Identify areas that may require immediate attention due to damage, deterioration, or signs of tampering.

Materials and Tools

Gather the necessary materials and tools for boarding up the property securely. You’ll need weather-resistant plywood, nails or screws, a saw, a drill, safety goggles, gloves, and a ladder.

Measuring and Cutting Plywood

Accurate measurements are crucial to ensure that the plywood boards fit securely over openings. Measure the dimensions of the areas you need to cover and cut the plywood accordingly. Leave a slight overhang to ensure a snug fit.

Preparing Openings

Before attaching the plywood boards, prepare the openings by removing debris and any broken glass. Address any sharp edges that could potentially damage the plywood or compromise its integrity.

Attaching Plywood Boards

Position the plywood boards over the openings and secure them using nails or screws. Focus on reinforcing the corners and edges for added stability. Creating pilot holes before driving in nails or screws can prevent the plywood from splitting.

Sealing and Finishing

Apply a weather-resistant sealant along the edges of the plywood to protect against moisture infiltration. If desired, you can paint the plywood to match the property’s exterior, enhancing its appearance while providing additional protection.

2. Regular Property Inspections

Frequent property inspections are essential for preventing code enforcement fines. Regular visits allow you to identify and address potential issues promptly, ensuring that the property remains in compliance with local regulations.

Create a Maintenance Schedule

Establish a routine maintenance schedule that includes inspections and necessary upkeep tasks. Assign responsibilities to either yourself or a property management company if applicable.

Document Inspections

Document each inspection, noting any maintenance or repair work performed. Detailed records provide evidence that you are proactively addressing the property’s condition.

Address Issues Promptly

If you discover issues during inspections, such as broken windows, damaged doors, or signs of unauthorized entry, address them immediately. Quick action demonstrates your commitment to maintaining the property and can prevent violations that may lead to fines.

3. Secure Windows and Doors

In addition to boarding up the property, secure all windows and doors to further prevent unauthorized access and comply with code enforcement regulations.

Install Deadbolts and Locks

Install deadbolts and locks on all exterior doors. Reinforce weak points to deter break-ins and ensure the property remains secure.

Window Security

Consider using window security film or bars to reinforce windows. These measures discourage vandalism and unlawful entry, reducing the risk of code enforcement violations.

4. Maintain Exterior Appearance

A well-maintained exterior not only enhances the property’s visual appeal but also prevents potential code enforcement violations related to property aesthetics.

Lawn and Landscaping

Keep the lawn mowed and landscaping tidy. Overgrown vegetation can create an unsightly appearance and attract unwanted attention from code enforcement.

Paint and Repairs

Address peeling paint, damaged siding, and other exterior issues promptly. Maintaining the property’s curb appeal reflects positively on your commitment to keeping the property in good condition.

5. Adhere to Local Regulations

Familiarize yourself with your local municipality’s codes and regulations regarding vacant properties. Each jurisdiction may have specific requirements that you must follow to avoid fines.

Vacant Property Registration

Some cities require owners of vacant properties to register them with the local government. Failure to register a vacant property can result in fines.

Safety Requirements

Ensure that your property meets safety standards set by local codes. This might include requirements for fire safety, structural stability, and more.

6. Consider Professional Property Management

If managing a vacant property becomes overwhelming, consider hiring a professional property management company. Property managers are well-versed in local regulations and can help you navigate code enforcement requirements while maintaining the property on your behalf.

7. Stay Informed and Communicate

Stay informed about changes to local codes and regulations that could impact your vacant property. Open communication with your local code enforcement office can also provide valuable insights into compliance expectations.


Preventing code enforcement fines for owning a vacant property requires a combination of proactive measures and vigilance. Boarding up the property serves as a crucial first step in safeguarding the premises, deterring unauthorized access, and maintaining compliance with local regulations. By incorporating regular inspections, securing windows and doors, maintaining the exterior, adhering to local codes, and considering professional management, you can effectively mitigate the risk of fines and demonstrate your commitment to responsible property ownership. Remember that taking these steps not only protects your investment but also contributes positively to the overall well-being of the community.