How We Work

Baltimore Rooftops

What is Vacant Building Receivership?

Vacant building receivership is a code enforcement tool where the city government requests the court to appoint a neutral third-party (the receiver) to sell, rehabilitate, or demolish a vacant property in order to abate the nuisance. 

Here's how the receivership process works at One House At A Time:

Identify Properties Icon

The receivership process begins when the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) identifies a vacant property. Once identified, DHCD issues a Vacant Building Notice (VBN) and attempts to work with the property owner to make efforts toward renovating the property and bringing it up-to-code. 

If the owner fails to act, DHCD files for receivership against the owner and petitions the judge to appoint a receiver. The owner has 30 days to appeal in court. 

However, if the owner cannot renovate or fails to show up to court, the court appoints a vacant building receiver (One House) to transfer the property to a qualified buyer who will raze or renovate.

Preparing for Auction IconOnce the 30-day appeal window expires and a judge agrees to appoint a receiver, DHCD releases the property for public auction. One House then starts preparing the property for sale. We set an auction date and share a preliminary list of properties around four weeks before the auction via our website, mailing list, LinkedIn page, and through the auctioneer, A.J. Billig & Co.

We comply with all legal advertising requirements. One House secures and places auction signs on the properties. If the property is deemed safe enough to enter, we install combination locks that allow interested bidders to visit. We encourage our bidders to view properties before the auction to assess their condition. Approved bidders must contact A.J. Billig for access.

*Properties can only be removed from auction by court order or at the request of the DHCD code enforcement attorney.*

Qualifying Bidders IconSince receivership properties are usually in poor condition, we must transfer them to experienced buyers who can successfully rehabilitate and secure a use & occupancy permit (u&o) within one year. To bid at our auctions, you must submit an application and supplemental documents that demonstrate your ability to purchase and rehabilitate distressed properties. We qualify bidders based on: 

  • Financial Ability: Proof of a minimum of $90,000 in liquid assets per property.
  • Development Experience: Demonstrated experience rehabilitating similar properties.
  • Good Standing: If the applicant owns property in Maryland, they must be in good standing. The properties owned cannot have outstanding code violations or VBNs.

Learn More   Apply Here

Auction Day IconOne House partners with A.J. Billig & Co. to host vacant property auctions every other month in person, online, or on premises. The properties are posted on both One House and A.J. Billig’s website with interior and exterior photographs when available. 

Each auction includes between 25 - 50 properties. Bidding starts at $5,000 and properties are sold to the highest bidder. All properties are sold “as-is” and are subject to the existing VBN.

In person auctions are held at Delta Hotels Baltimore North (5100 Falls Road, Baltimore, MD 21210). Bidding starts promptly at 11 AM on the auction date. A $3,000 deposit is required for each property won at auction by certified or cashier’s check (NO CASH). If the purchase price exceeds $30,000, then bidders must increase their deposit amount to 10% of the purchase price and deliver to A.J. Billig within 24 hours. 

We require advanced notice if you plan to authorize someone to bid on your behalf or if special accommodation is needed. Contracts are signed and deposits are collected at the end of the auction. All properties that do not sell at auction are available for immediate sale.

Coordinating Settlement IconFollowing the auction, we post the preliminary sale results to our website and send a summary to our mailing list. We will contact buyers with instructions on next steps. 

One House submits a Report of Sale to the District Court for approval (ratification). This can take up to 75 days from the auction date to complete, including a 30-day appeal process for the original owner. Once the sale is approved, we can then move on to settlement. The new buyer selects a settlement company and pays all settlement fees (typically $1,500-$2,500). We work with the buyer’s title company and the City to clear title and respond to any legal actions. At settlement, all outstanding taxes and fines are paid from proceeds of the sale, and the property is transferred to the buyer lien-free. 

The buyer has 12 months from the settlement date to obtain a u&o. If the buyer cannot secure a u&o at that time, they may face violations, fines, or receivership action.

Distributing Funds IconAfter settlement, One House researches and verifies all claimants and lien holders on the property. Then we submit a final accounting to the District Court, including all fees and costs incurred to bring the legal action and execute the order. If no exceptions are filed, The District Court approves the Final Accounting and dismisses One House.

We then disburse funds in the following order: auction costs; One House’s legal fees; receiver’s fee; Baltimore City liens for taxes, water, environmental citations, etc.; DHCD’s legal fees; recorded liens in their priority order; and the original property owner.