Throughout West Virginia, communities trying to attract economic development are faced with abandoned and neglected buildings. In addition to being eyesores, these properties can be health and safety hazards.

To help local governments, a clinic at the West Virginia University College of Law has published a free guide to navigating the legal issues of dealing with dilapidated properties.

“From Liability to Viability: A Legal Toolkit to Address Neglected Properties in West Virginia” was written by the attorneys in the Land Use and Sustainable Development (LUSD) Law Clinic at the WVU College of Law.

The easy-to-use handbook identifies the various tools available to attorneys, mayors, code enforcement officers, land use planners and community leaders. It is based on dozens of interviews conducted statewide with experts as well as in-depth reviews of local ordinances. Topics addressed in the handbook range from prioritization and collaboration to codes, eminent domain and negotiation.

The book grew out of the LUSD Law Clinic’s experiences working throughout West Virginia over the past several years, according to Katherine Garvey, the clinic’s director.

“Working with local governments on land use and planning issues, we kept hearing about the problem of dilapidated properties,” she said. “The issues were complex, dealing with a broad range of legal questions, but the need was very real and standing in the way of progress.”

“From Liability to Viability” is part of a LUSD Law Clinic initiative called West Virginia Legal Education to Address Abandoned and Neglected Properties, or WV LEAP. A grant from the Claude Benedum Foundation in 2014 provided the initial funding for WV LEAP.

A PDF of “From Liability to Viability” is available for free at Hard copies of the handbook are available by contacting the LUSD Law Clinic at (304) 293-4633 or emailing

Established in 2011, the LUSD Law Clinic provides legal services to West Virginia local governments, non-profit organizations and others to develop land and water conservation strategies and practices. The clinic provides law students with an opportunity to gain practical experience in the field of land use law and policy.



CONTACT: James Jolly, College of Law,

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