I'm a young person interested in buying a sub-$10k home for myself on auction almost anywhere in the US.

I understand that buying a cheap auction home can come with all kinds of hidden costs: liens, overdue taxes, and legally mandated renovations.

My question is just about the last point.

Where can I find counties or cities that will legally let me live in a house in very bad condition? In other words if I (theoretically) don't mind black mold, rotting roof, and other health hazards, how do I find which jurisdictions will actually allow me to live in such a home?

Obviously I'm not actually planning to live in an unsafe environment but I want to see where I can buy a home that will allow me to judge my own safety.

1 Answer 1


Where can I find counties or cities that will legally let me live in a house in very bad condition?

If you are buying a house in a city, even in a tax lien auction or an economically distressed area auction (like Detroit, Newark or any other city in dire straights), then you will fall under local health and safety regulations, because the house - in the process of a buy/sell agreement, title insurance, and lien research - also brings in the health department and fire department. There are zoning regulations, housing covenants, neighborhood associations, etc., all geared toward health and safety. In a distressed area, these departments may be even more diligent in enforcing health and safety laws when they sell tax lien or abandoned houses because of federal and state funding used to subsidize those sales and gentrification.

All localities will nave different minimum occupancy laws in terms of mold damage, if electric service is working for the house, if sewer and water are available, if the house even has a roof, etc. The best thing to do is Google for the locations you might want to live in and see what the laws might be. You will also find tax lien sales that same way, as well as the various programs that re-inhabit and renovate distressed housing in inner cities.

Unless of course you want to squat in a rowhouse in an inner city; than none of that applies, including all the issues of buying a house. Until you get kicked out.

I want to see where I can buy a home that will allow me to judge my own safety...

When it comes to housing, most places don't let you judge your own safety. You can when you live under a highway overpass; you typically can't when you buy a house in a city. This is called civilization.

But you can try a don't-blink-when-you-drive-through-it town in the rust belt or a rural area in the Midwest. Look for an abandoned farmhouse out on the South Dakota prairie and look up the owner on the tax records in the county courthouse.

You won't have any laws (well, a few) and you can definitely judge your own safety and sanity. The local authorities may not care, as they will be happy someone moved to the area. The farther away from a city you get, the fewer laws you will find in terms of occupancy laws, minimum building codes and legally mandated safety.

  • That's about what I was going to say. No city would allow it because they have to protect the general population, but if the only risk is to yourself in the mountains or country-side... go for it. Mar 23, 2016 at 21:27

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