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Vacant, Abandoned, and Distressed Property Legal Research Guide: About

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.

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.

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.

LibGuide Author

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Vicky Gannon
Head of Collection Services / Reference Librarian

Pace University School of Law Library

78 North Broadway

White Plains, NY 10589

914 422-4369