PHOTO: The Assembly this week passed the New York State Abandoned Property Relief Act of 2016 – sponsored by Assemblyman Goldfeder (l.) and designed to combat “zombie” properties with a host of foreclosure protections and a new state-wide registry. File Photo
By Forum Staff
The Assembly this week approved the New York State Abandoned Property Relief Act of 2016, designed to combat “zombie” properties through foreclosure protections and a new state-wide registry.
With zombie properties, according to the legal guidance network Nolo, the homeowner moves out after foreclosure has been started, but for some reason the foreclosure is cancelled, the sale is never held, or title is never officially transferred to a new owner. As a result, title remains in the homeowner’s name.
Often, zombie foreclosures occur in low-income areas where the lender is not anxious to assume responsibility for the upkeep of the property and wants to save on taxes, as well as other costs. If squatters occupy the residence or it falls into severe disrepair, the bank may simply wash its hands of the property.
Developed in conjunction with the office of State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the Abandoned Property Relief Act aims to facilitate early detection and maintenance of vacant and abandoned residential properties, as well as:
Expand the existing duty of a mortgagee to maintain vacant residential real property to include “pre-foreclosure” vacant properties; require periodic inspections to determine whether properties secured by a delinquent mortgage have actually been abandoned; allow localities and the attorney general to enforce the maintenance of property requirements; and create a statewide registry for abandoned residential property under the supervision of the state AG and a toll-free hotline for community residents to report the presence of such properties.
“Zombie properties are a plague on our community that drives down property values, threatens public health and undermines the character of our neighborhoods,” Goldfeder said. “For families still struggling to recover from [Superstorm] Sandy, they are also a constant, painful reminder of everything we lost in the disaster. When it becomes law, the abandoned property relief act will finally give communities the tools to fight these zombie properties and give families some much-needed relief.”
The growth of vacant zombie properties has affected many New York communities in recent years. Last year, the Attorney General’s office estimated that there were as many as 16,700 homes in foreclosure across the state. This problem has been compounded by the devastation of Sandy, which left many homes abandoned and unmaintained in the months and years after the storm.
“Here in southern Queens and Rockaway, we pride ourselves on the character of our neighborhoods. Fighting these abandoned properties will help us fully recover from Sandy and make our communities even stronger,” Goldfeder said. “I urge the Senate to act as soon as possible to make this legislation a reality for our families.”