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The focus of this guide is the search for local land use laws relevant to vacant, abandoned, and distressed properties. This research guide includes links to primary and secondary sources.
Last Updated: Jun 22, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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About This Research Guide

This guide is written for use by Pace Law School students, faculty and staff, and contains links to vacant, abandoned, and distressed property law resources, with a focus on finding local land use laws.   

  • Many treatises and some books are made available on Westlaw and WestlawNext, or  Where secondary sources are available on WestlawNext or, links have been provided along with call numbers for secondary sources that we hold in print. 
  • Some of the links included in in this guide require passwords which are available to Pace Law School students, faculty and staff via TWEN.  

Researchers from other institutions should ask their librarians for assistance if they do not have access to the materials noted in this guide.  

This research guide is an ongoing project. I would like to thank the staff at Pace's Land Use Law Center for Sustainable Development for their many helpful suggestions regarding websites and topics to include in the guide, and I welcome additional comments/suggestions from anyone who is using this guide.

Remote Access

On campus access: Most databases are available on campus via IP access without requiring an additional log in. Some databases are available on campus only. Read the description of the database you intend to use. List of databases is below. 

Off campus access: Some databases require Pace Portal login for access. Other databases cab accessed off campus via PaceVPN (Virtual Private Network). Download the Cisco VPN client from the link below.

Some electronic databases require login on and off campus. The login information is listed in the Database Passwords folder on the Law Library on TWEN course. See the link below. 


Introduction to the Law of Vacant, Abandoned, and Distressed Property

Many communities are working to deal with the adverse impacts of vacant, abandoned, and distressed properties.  

Vacancy can be defined as property that is unoccupied. It is more common in commercial areas, and oftentimes a property is vacant simply because a property owner is holding on to it as a long-term investment. Abandonment, on the other hand, is a far stronger concept. An abandoned property suggests that the owner has ceased to invest any resources in the property, is forgoing all routine maintenance, and is making no further payments on related financial obligations such as mortgages or property taxes. Though the property has been abandoned by the owner, tenants may still occupy it, or squatters may live there without permission.                


[A]ll legal strategies dealing with vacant, abandoned, and substandard properties have three key features. The first is the ability to identify at all times the legal owner(s) of the property. The second is to impose legal liability for the financial costs of abandonment. The third is to be able to force a transfer of ownership and control if the problems are not resolved. [1]

Researchers looking at land use law issues will need to consider federal and state statutes, federal and state cases, and federal and state administrative regulations and decisions. These resources can easily be searched by researchers with access to Westlaw and/or Lexis.

More difficult to locate are the local laws which put into effect the land use plans of local governments, and the planning documents, both local and regional, which inform land use planning.  

[1] Frank S. Alexander & Leslie A. Powell, Neighborhood Stabilization Strategies for Vacant and Abandoned Properties, Zoning and Planning Law Report, Sept. 2011, at 1, 2-4.

Related Research Guides from the Pace Law Library

These research guides on related topics are written and maintained by reference librarians at the Pace Law School Library. 

  • Land Use, Planning, and Zoning Legal Research Guide
    Written by Vicky Gannon, Land Use Law Research is a legal resource guide for information relating to land use law including primary and secondary source materials, quick links, and database resources.
  • Environmental Legal Research Guide
    Written by Taryn Rucinski, this guide "is designed to assist both the novice and the experienced legal practitioner in locating resources related to federal environmental and administrative law."
  • New York Environmental Legal Research Guide
    Written by Taryn Rucinski at the Pace Law Library, this is "a legal resource guide for information relating to New York State and New York City environmental law including primary and secondary source materials, quick links, and database resources."

Related Research Guides From Other Institutions

Research guides are often written with a specific audience in mind and may contain call numbers or specific to that library or may list databases specific to that library. When using a research guide published by another library, you can always check the Pace Library Catalog to see if we own a particular book and check Pace Law Library's list of databases to see if we have a subscription for a particular database.  

  • Land Use Law Research Guide
    From the Georgetown Law Library, this guide includes call numbers specific to materials at Georgetown but can be used by researchers anywhere as a good starting point for Land Use Law Research.
  • Urban and Regional Planning: A Research Guide
    Written by Lorre Smith, from the State University of New York at Albany, this guide includes tabs for: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Sprawl and New Urbanism, Brownfields, Transportation, Housing, and Community Development.

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Vicky Gannon
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Head of Circulation / Reference Librarian
Pace University School of Law Library
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