Demolition Program

The City of Charleston pursues demolition of residential structures that have become a threat to public health, safety and welfare. Our criteria for demolition candidacy includes such damage as cracked foundations; bowed/collapsing walls; roof collapse; structural instability; or severe water damage. In general, it is a structure that has likely gone beyond the point where rehabilitation would be possible or cost effective.

Our demolition process begins with owner contact. We are bound by law to make contact with the deeded owner of record. Demolition candidates represent a high liability risk for owners and our department encourages swift action to minimize that risk. Boarding up a structure does not eliminate the chance of curious children being injured or possible damage to a neighboring structure from collapse or strong winds blowing off loose roofing or siding. Owners always have the choice of either rehabilitating or demolishing the structure, and may either do the work themselves with the necessary permits or select a contractor of their choice.

If we cannot locate the owner, we will pursue necessary residential demolitions through a search warrant process in conjunction with the police and fire departments. This process takes several months to complete due to the legal steps involved.

Owners who would like to demolish but cannot afford the costs can take advantage of the City demolition assistance program. Once an owner signs the Demolition Agreement giving the City permission to do the work, the demolitions inspector takes the following steps:

  • Obtain a Historic Clearance (every demolition paid for with Federal funds requires this multi-page document to be submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office for approval or denial; this step adds an additional 30 days to the regular demolition process and demolition can sometimes be denied by SHPO);
  • Obtain a title search ($300);
  • Obtain an asbestos survey ($300 and up, depending on size and amounts tested);
  • Asbestos abatement ($2.25 per square foot);
  • Demolition, re-seeding lot ($3.89 per square foot);
  • Send an invoice for the amount to the owner, who may then pay it or a lien will be filed against the property for the amount.

The average cost of a small, single story home is between $6,000-$9,000 depending on the amount of asbestos found, if any. The ultimate cost depends on how much asbestos the structure contains and how large the structure is. Liens are not charged interest and can remain attached to the property until paid off.