How to get rid of worthless land in Pennsylvania

16 Replies

How do you dispose of a property in an HOA community with HOA fees that no one wants. The HOA will not take it back as a gift. Charities do not want it because of the HOA fees. These lots are not being purchased at tax sale. A ruling in the PA courts say that until the land is deeded away, the deed holder is responsible for taxes and HOA fees. This court ruling was made regarding another lot in the same Pocono community.

Lot was purchased before changes in codes.  Lot is now too small for septic.  The only way that I can think of to make this land profitable would be to buy neighboring lots to where this lot would be usable.  My family does not have the resources for this.

Has anyone else in Pennsylvania come across a situation like this and how was the property dispose. The property is currently owned by my parents who have been paying the HOA fees on this land since the 60s I think.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Research the neighbors and call/mail them. Some HOAs/Counties will allow you to combine adjacent lots which eliminates the extra HOA fee or taxes. This also could allow adjacent smaller lots to add septic or work around other building issues (setbacks, etc). My best call ever was then I called the neighbor to see about buying his lot and he offered to buy my lot instead :)

@Susan Herman

I don't know all the facts and it's hard to say without taking a look at all the relevant documents. With that caveat in mind: 

  • If you fail to pay the underlying real-estate taxes, you will lose the property at a judicial tax sale. If no one buys it, it ends up in the repository. For better or worst, that's where most of these "worthless" properties end up.  
  • HOA fees are trickier. Note that many planned communities and development were created with green spaces in mind. They intentionally made it impossible for people to build anything on these vacant areas because they wanted the area to have a spacious feel. Unfortunately, these properties can pose a lot of legal headaches depending on how it got dealt with.

Disclaimer: While I’m an attorney licensed to practice in PA, I’m not your attorney. What I wrote above does not create an attorney/client relationship between us. I wrote the above for informational purposes. Do not rely on it for legal advice. Always consult with your attorney before you rely on the above information.

I already tried the neighboring lots.  I was able to reach a relative on the one side.  He was from Massachusetts.  He was the executor to the estate of the couple that owned the lot.  He was not going to have it deeded into his name.  As far as I know, he didn't plan on doing anything with the lot.  I was never able to contact the owner of the property on the other side.  Unfortunately there are no developed lots right next to theirs.

How much are the HOA fees and taxes? Must not be a huge burden if they've been paid since the 60s. Could keep paying until a new neighbor moves in and try again.

Let is go for tax's unless the HOA can seek a personal judgment just walk away

@Chris K.   maybe chris knows in that state. in the land developments we have been in.

HOAs don't have the money to chase a worthless lot owner and as stated just walk away

Originally posted by Account Closed:

How much are the HOA fees and taxes? Must not be a huge burden if they've been paid since the 60s. Could keep paying until a new neighbor moves in and try again.

The total fees paid for taxes and HOA over the years FAR exceed the value of these lots in the Poconos. The owners just are/were the sort of people who maintain their reputation for good character by paying all of their obligations.

These lots are in the "NEFF" category - Not Even For Free ;)

@Steve Babiak Weird situation lol should complain to local congressman/woman

The HOA fee is now up to $636 for the year. This HOA has and will go over money. See this link:

https://law.justia.com/cases/pennsylvania/superior...

I just came across a comment on the above case that the defended should have started a corporation and transferred just this one asset into the corporation. Then the HOA couldn't go after the individual person. Any thoughts on this??

Thank you all for your input on this situation.

@Susan Herman could you create an LLC and sell it to the LLC. Then let the LLC let it go to tax sale. If the HOA goes after the LLC there is nothing to go after

Great idea @Chris Seveney :) But that begs the question: what to call your LLC? Dumping Ground LLC? We're Broke LLC? HOA Go Away LLC?

can you sell it to a LLC that you create? Then walk away and let them attack the LLC. ANOTHER method. I had an asset that was terrible. You pay a very old person that has terrible credit, does not care, to take the asset. Give them $2000. They don't care if they are targets as they have no assets that can be attached, nothing to risk. I know it sounds medieval but ya gotta stop the bleeding

I may be a bit naive here but it seems to me that if the lot was registered with the county for residential development then the ability for the septic system should be grandfathered into the deed and thus the lot. I might talk with local legal counsel before I did anything else. 

Quit claim the property to the HOA. The form that I use in PA does not require the grantee to sign anything. They have an equitable interest in the property so I don't think they have much grounds to try and fight off your quit claim. Once that deed is recorded, you are out. I would like to hear some of the lawyers chime in, but I am pretty sure that will work.

Originally posted by @Sean Patrum :

I may be a bit naive here but it seems to me that if the lot was registered with the county for residential development then the ability for the septic system should be grandfathered into the deed and thus the lot. I might talk with local legal counsel before I did anything else. 

 you would think that is the case.. but back in the day when these antiquated lots were created it was legal to do .

this is quite common out west as well.. many lots wont meet modern septic standards and are just let go for tax's.. and then you have the guys who teach who to buy bare land at tax sales.. this is what a majority of the folks buy and then resell to unsuspecting newbies.

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

Lock We hate spam just as much as you

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here