Nearly everyone knows of at least one property in their community that's been sitting vacant for too long, becoming more and more of an eyesore as the years go by.

EmilyMcBridePhotography, Thinkstock

Abandoned properties are more of an issue in New Jersey's urban areas, but no city is immune.

Patrick Morrisy, executive director of HANDS, Inc., an Orange-based nonprofit devoted to revitalizing urban neighborhoods, said vacant and deteriorated properties are a "menace" and "magnets for all kinds of bad things.

"They drive down property values, they attract crime, they're dangerous, and they also just generally rob people of hope that their neighborhood is going to get better," Morrisy said. "It's a problem in primarily urban areas with weak housing markets."

In the past, cities had no real control over what happened with distressed homes, but the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act, signed into law last decade by Gov. James McGreevey, gave towns the power to essentially take over abandoned residential properties.

If the property meets the right criteria, a town can put it on its list of abandoned homes, and if the owner or lien holder doesn't take action immediately, the town can step in.

"It's an effective threat that gets people to rehabilitate these properties," Morrisy said. "Then they're a good, contributing asset to the block that they're on."

The city of Wildwood is introducing a new registry for abandoned homes, and owners are charged $50 just for being on the list.

On its website, the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey referred to a municipality's abandoned property list as a "key legal tool" in addressing the problem. Before a list can be started, it must be formally authorized by the local governing body.