Legal Tools

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LEAPtoolkitLocal governments in West Virginia can use legal tools to convert dilapidated properties to productive use. The West Virginia University Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic (WVU Land Use Clinic) developed a toolkit called From Liability to Viability: A Legal Toolkit to Address Neglected Properties in West Virginia that offers legal mechanisms to address blight. Click here to access the WV LEAP* Toolkit online and download a PDF of the complete legal toolkit.

Highlights from the WV LEAP Toolkit include:

Laying the foundation. These strategies include collaborating with key players to brainstorm and form plans to deal with problem properties, performing a windshield survey to visually inspect building exteriors, and developing a comprehensive plan that considers future development.

Fundamental legal tools. This section offers ways to combat problem properties, such as adopting a building code, issuing on-site citations, creating a vacant property registration, filing a lien, applying public pressure, partnering with financial institutions, and adopting a nuisance code.

Additional tools include seeking a lawyer’s opinion on property title and ownership, applying eminent domain, creating ordinances to address unsafe properties, and transferring property ownership through a tax sale.

Land banks. The WV LEAP Toolkit also provides a chapter on land banks, which offer a systematic approach to address neglected properties, authorized through WV legislation to establish Urban Renewal Authorities (URAs) or Land Reuse Agencies (LRAs).

Special considerations found in the toolkit include historic properties, contaminated properties, and the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program.

For each tool, the WV LEAP Toolkit provides:

  • Context for usage in West Virginia;
  • Examples of specific WV communities employing the tool;
  • Advantages and disadvantages; and
  • Funding strategies.

* WV LEAP stands for West Virginia Legal Education to Address Abandoned/Neglected Properties, and is a program of the WVU Land Use Clinic.