Buying a Rehabbed Home in Baltimore City?

Anyone buying a home in Baltimore City is encouraged to ask one simple question: Does the house you are about to purchase have a Vacant Building Notice?

Incidents where homebuyers are discovering their rehabilitated house has a Vacant Building Notice (VBN) on it are increasing across Baltimore City. A VBN is placed on a property when it is vacant, abandoned, and uninhabitable. It is a violation notice and the owner can be fined $1,000 for not removing the notice by rehabilitating the property and obtaining a use and occupancy permit. Too often, properties are being rehabilitated and bought back into livableconditions, but the correct steps have not been taken to properly remove the VBN. Or the property is being rehabbed with the contractor cutting corners, which could cause serious issues.

To resolve this issue, in 2021, the Baltimore City Council passed Council Bill 21-0078, requiring sellers to disclose if a property has a VBN on it as part of the contract of sale. There are fines and penalties for failure to disclose, and potential purchasers can walk away from the contract if the property has a VBN.

“It is exciting that vacant and abandoned properties are being renovated in our neighborhoods, but it has to be done right,” said Councilwoman Odette Ramos. “Residents are not expecting a fully rehabbed home to be designated as vacant. When this happens, the home is not up to code, and the new homeowners get citations and accumulated fines that could lead to tax sale. We want you to have a great home-buying experience, and it starts with being aware.”

Some new homeowners have purchased what looks like fully rehabbed properties only to learn after the fact that the home has a VBN. Some contractors who are rehabilitating vacant properties are not pulling the permits through Baltimore City, or they are pulling a few but never get the Use and Occupancy permit that is required to get rid of a VBN. They rehabbed the property enough to look good, but it may not be up to code.

“Anyone rehabbing a property has to obtain the proper building permits, and once the work is completed, a final Use and Occupancy permit is required,” said Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy. “This shows that the property is now habitable and up to code.”

Councilwoman Ramos and Commissioner Kennedy are urging title companies, potential homebuyers, and realtors to educate themselves on this issue and just ask one question before signing a contract: “Does the property have a Vacant Building Notice?”  View their video messages on this topic.


There are two easy ways to find out if a property still has a Vacant Building Notice:

  1. Take a quick look on CoDeMap: https://cels.baltimorehousing.org/codemapv2ext/.  A tutorial with instructions on how to look for VBNs on CoDeMap is available HERE .
     
  2. Review the Lien Sheet that is provided to the Title Company before settlement. If there is a violation notice, it will be present on the Lien Sheet. See the FACT SHEET to learn more, or contact Councilwoman Ramos at odette.ramos@baltimorecity.gov or the Department of Housing and Community Development at DHCDCommunications@baltimorecity.gov.

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