Wisconsin Historical Society

Guide or Instruction

Demolition by Neglect: Enforcement Actions

Chapter 9: Preservation Commission Design Review, Page 5 of 6

Demolition By Neglect: Enforcement | HPC Training | Wisconsin Historical Society

When a historic property is being neglected, the local preservation commission needs to take action. The best approach is prevention, but the local preservation ordinance should outline the penalties and enforcement actions that will be taken when building owners do not comply.

Get Involved to Prevent Neglect

The best defense against neglect is a good offense. Commissions can assist the community in maintaining its historic properties by:

  • Developing and maintaining good relationships with property owners
  • Providing economic incentives to encourage the maintenance and rehabilitation of historic properties
  • Assisting low-income residents to maintain their properties by involving volunteer programs
  • Providing property owners with information on assistance programs, and if possible, guiding them through the process of obtaining assistance
  • Helping owners to seek alternative uses for their property or potential new buyers

Address Problems Directly with Property Owners

If an issue of neglect arises, the commission should try to address problems directly with property owners in an informal manner before the issue becomes a major problem. A written letter from the commission staff to property owners stating the problem or violation and offering suggestions to correct it might be all that is necessary.

Take Enforcement Actions

When preventive actions are ineffective, enforcement actions must be taken. The local preservation ordinance should clearly state the rules of compliance for property maintenance, the penalties and actions taken for noncompliance, and the enforcement procedures that will be followed. The conditions and procedures for neglected properties are described in Demolition by Neglect: Ordinance Provisions.

Fines are a common method of penalty for noncompliance with property maintenance provisions. Another effective method of enforcement is to authorize the local government to make the necessary repairs and then charge the owner by putting a lien on the property. If necessary, the commission may want to authorize the local government to acquire the property through eminent domain. Rehabilitation and resale become options once the local government acquires the property.