How to deal with an abandoned home

Call the homeowner's association

If you're part of a homeowner's association, it can help, too.

"HOAs have broad powers to enforce standards for homeowners," says David Reiss, professor of law at the Brooklyn Law School in New York, where he teaches courses on real estate practice.

How much power they have depends on the HOA's bylaws, rules and regulations, but HOAs can impose fines for noncompliance with standards laid out in those rules.

"Some might go further and allow an HOA to enter onto a property to conduct maintenance," Reiss says, which can take care of immediate problems.

He warns, though, that an HOA should consult a lawyer before taking that step, not only to make sure what they're doing is allowed according to its bylaws, but also because, even if the owner is delinquent on maintenance, they could still accuse the HOA of trespassing or stealing for entering the property.