FAQ - Code Enforcement

A house on my block is vacant and abandoned. Am I able to mow the yard?

  • Some neighbors of vacant and abandoned properties have expressed an interest in maintaining yards, securing buildings, or gardening on the properties.  Many have asked city officials for permission to take these remedial actions.  It is important to remember that the City does not own the properties and cannot give people permission to enter onto them.  As a general rule, stepping onto a property without the owner’s permission is trespassing, and could result in civil or criminal liability. 

    However, Indiana recently passed the “Good Samaritan Law,” (found in Indiana Code Section 34-30-26-5) which provides limited exception to the trespassing law.  The Good Samaritan law allows a non-owner to lock or board an entry to a building.  It also allows a non-owner to remove trash and complete simple yard upkeep, including mowing the property. 

    The Good Samaritan Law does not allow a person to enter the property of another for the purpose of gardening, or to enter a building on the property under any circumstances.

Are there any resources to help prevent a property from becoming vacant and abandoned?

  • Depending on the circumstances surrounding the situation, there are a number of programs and resources that may be available to assist a property owner.  

    This includes services like mortgage default counseling, legal assistance for victims of contractor scams, and in some cases assistance with home repairs. Learn more here.

Can my address or house number be painted on the curb?

  • The City does not allow painting on the curbs of any kind unless it is by a city official.

    If you receive an advertisement to paint your address on the curb, please disregard it. The City of South Bend Municipal Code requires that the numbers be on your house and visible from the street for purposes such as emergency response.  If the numbers are on the curb, they would go unnoticed when covered with snow or blocked by a parked vehicle.

How am I able to buy an abandoned property or vacant lot?

  • Currently there are two ways to acquire a property: 

    1. Contact the owner and reach an agreement or
    2. Through the St. Joseph County Tax Sale or Commissioners’ Certificate Sales

How do I buy a property through the County Tax Sale or Commissioners’ Certificate Sales?

  • Note: Prior to purchasing/bidding on any property, you should contact the Department of Code Enforcement to find out if there are any housing violations with the property BEFORE you bid on it.  You may be bidding on a property that has an affirmed demolition order.

    Contact Code Enforcement at: 574.235.9486 or 

    Visit us at: 1300 County-City Building, 227 W. Jefferson Blvd., South Bend, IN 46601.

    Property Tax Sale

    Within the State of Indiana, when property taxes or special assessments from the prior installments are delinquent, the property becomes eligible for the county tax sale.  Counties may conduct up to one tax sale during each tax year.  These sales are typically held in the fall.  Tax Sales, and all eligible properties, are advertised in advance of the day of the sale.

    Tax Sales are an open auction format. The minimum bid is advertised and is the lowest amount that can be accepted by law.  The bidder, or her authorized representative, must attend the public auction to bid on properties.  Purchases are not permitted by mail, phone, or fax.  The winning bidder will be awarded a Tax Sale Certificate based upon the highest bid and the satisfactory form of payment.  All sales are final.  Buyers are obligated to pay within 24 hours of award by certified funds accompanied by the tax sale certificate.

    The original property owner retains ownership for a one year redemption period following tax sale.  This redemption period permits the original owner to pay all delinquent taxes and associated penalties plus an additional 10 % and additional costs that go to the bidder.

    It is important to know that until a lien buyer (successful bidder) is issued a tax deed for the property pursuant to a court order, he or she does not have any right to either take possession of or secure the property (except what is permitted under the Good Samaritan Law).  If the lien buyer enters the premises before he or she is issued a tax deed, the lien buyer is trespassing.  Also, no liens or encumbrances are extinguished by virtue of a county tax sale.  The event that may potentially extinguish various liens and encumbrances is the issuance of a tax deed.  A tax deed executed under State of Indiana Code vests in the grantee an estate of fee simple absolute, free and clear of all liens and encumbrances created or suffered before or after the tax sale, except for those items granted priority under federal law, and the lien of the state or a political subdivision for taxes and special assessments that accrue subsequent to the sale.  However, the estate is subject to all easements, covenants, declarations, and other deed restrictions and land use; including all zoning restrictions and liens and encumbrances created or suffered by the purchaser at the tax sale.

    County Commissioners’ Certificate Sale

    The Board of County Commissioners is issued a tax sale certificate for all parcels not sold at the county tax sale giving them the same rights as a lien buyer.  The County Commissioners may decide to sell a certificate to the highest bidder for less than the amount previously offered at the tax sale based on the minimum bid.  The main difference between a tax sale and a commissioners’ certificate sale is that the redemption period is 120 days, and minimum bids may be reduced.

    Prior to purchasing property via tax sale or commissioners’ certificate sale, consultation with an attorney or another tax sale professional is strongly encouraged.

    Additional details about the tax sale and county commissioners’ certificate sale process are available by contacting the St. Joseph County Treasurer at 574.235.9531 or SRI (the company which conducts the sales for St. Joseph County) at www.sri-taxsale.com.  

How do I find the owner of a property?

  • Follow these steps to find out more about a property:

    • Click here to go to online GIS
    • You can locate a property by using the Search Tool in the upper right hand side of the window and entering the property address.
    • Once you locate the property you are interested in, right click on it and property information will appear.

    Note: This information is not updated immediately as properties are transferred.  You need to verify with the County Assessor's Office current ownership of the property.  The county is responsible for updating ownership information.

How do I report graffiti?

  • Help keep the Bend beautiful and report graffiti or learn about the Graffiti Abatement Program

    If you see graffiti or someone in the act of spraying graffiti, first contact the South Bend Police Department at 574-235-9201, or Crime Stoppers at 574-288-STOP. 

    Once graffiti is reported to the police department, all abatement concerns pertaining to graffiti on abandoned, public, private, and commercial property can be addressed by contacting the Director of Graffiti Abatement at the South Bend Parks and Recreation Maintenance Building, 1020 High Street, South Bend, Indiana 46601.

I own a vacant and abandoned property and don’t know what to do with it. Can the City help?

  • Unfortunately, the City has limited resources in order to assist property owners. However, there are some opportunities that may be helpful:

    1. Our Vacant & Abandoned Properties Initiative Partner, the Urban Enterprise Association (UEA) offers a Matching Repair Grant Program aimed at abandoned properties.
    2. If you are in the process of repairing the property, but need a bit more time to complete repairs, contact the Department of Code Enforcement.  It is better to work with the City rather than wait for us to send you notices of violations.  We try to work with owners to improve properties while being mindful of the burden abandoned houses place on neighbors and nearby properties.  Depending on the circumstances surrounding the property, and your history with Code Enforcement, we will work to find the best solution for all involved. You can contact Code Enforcement at 574.235.9486 or visit the office on the 13th floor of the County-City Building in downtown South Bend (227 W. Jefferson, Blvd.).
    3. The City also has a Property Donation Program.
    4. You can contact local non-profit organizations that work to improve neighborhoods (like Habitat for Humanity, Near Northwest Neighborhood, Inc. or South Bend Heritage Foundation) to see if they have interest in the property or vacant lot.
    5. If you have a vacant lot, you may wish to contact organizations such as Unity Gardens, Lots of Hope or other local groups / neighborhood organizations to see if they might have an interest in the property.
    6. If you haven’t already, you can complete the Vacant Property Registration. This will ensure the City has your most up-to-date contact information; enabling us to notify you more quickly about concerns with the property.  This can help you preserve the property, and possibly save you money, as you work towards repairing it.

If I buy an abandoned property or vacant lot, does that mean code violations, affirmed demolition orders and/or Code liens against the property will be dismissed?

  • No.  Prior to buying any property, you should contact the Department of Code Enforcement to find out the status of the property as well as if there are any fees, fines or civil penalties associated with the property.  

    This includes tax and commissioner's sales.

    Contact Code Enforcement at: 574.235.9486 or

    Visit us at: 1300 County-City Building, 227 W. Jefferson Blvd., South Bend, IN 46601.

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