Standing in front of an abandoned Syracuse property, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman held a press conference Friday, regarding proposed legislation he said would expedite the foreclosure process for “zombie” properties in New York.
According to Schneiderman, Onondaga County has the third highest percentage of vacant properties in the state.
“The bank doesn’t own them yet, so nobody maintains them,” Schneiderman stated. “They fall into disrepair, and become havens for crime, decay, vandalism, and arson.”
Schneiderman said the bill would require homeowners be provided with early notice saying they are legally entitled to remain in their homes until ordered to leave by a court.
In addition, he said the bill would require mortgage lenders to take responsibility for properties, and pay for their upkeep, soon after they have been vacated, and not, as under current law, at the end of a lengthy foreclosure process. Schneiderman also said lenders would be required to periodically inspect properties subject to a delinquent mortgage, to see whether they are still occupied.
“Right now the banks know they are going to take over the property,” he stated. “There is no one there, there’s no one fighting the foreclosure, but we still have this time lag that causes the phenomenon of abandoned, zombie properties.”
Additionally, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said the legislation would make sure zombie properties did not lower the property values of nearby houses.
“Families who want to move into these houses, and take care of them, are not allowed to,” Miner stated. “Our neighborhoods suffer, and our taxpayers suffer.”
According to Schneiderman, the legislation would require banks, and mortgage companies, to register abandoned properties on a statewide registry, and provide community residents with a toll-free hotline to report vacant and abandoned properties to the state.
He said banks that failed to register an abandoned property would also be subject to penalties and fines.
“Zombie property foreclosures increased by 50 percent from 2013 to 2014, bringing the total number of zombie properties in NYS to 16,701,” Schneiderman’s office stated. “As a result, almost 1 in 5 residential foreclosures is now a zombie property.”