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New zombie law takes aim at vacant, bank-owned properties

On behalf of Steven Waldinger

New York has introduced a new law designed to crack down on unmaintained bank-owned properties.

New York is cracking down on bank-owned homes that sit vacant and unmaintained, also known as zombie homes. A recently passed law, the Foreclosure Relief Act, is designed to prevent homes from sitting idle and vacant while also providing additional protections to homeowners who face foreclosure. The new law means that banks could face fines if they fail to maintain homes that they possess. Municipalities throughout New York have complained that zombie homes present a safety hazard, bring down real estate values, and are a blight on communities.

Foreclosure Relief Act

As WSKG News reports, the Foreclosure Relief Act came into force in December 2016. The new law requires banks that have repossessed homes to do a better job at maintaining those homes. If banks try to walk away from those homes and leave them empty and unmaintained then they could face fines of up to $500 per day per home.

Additionally, the new law sets up a registry to keep track of zombie homes throughout the state. A toll-free hotline has also been set up so that residents can report properties that have been left vacant and uncared for. Finally, the law also requires banks to let homeowners know that they have the right to stay in their homes during the foreclosure process.

Blight on communities

Zombie homes have become a major problem for many municipalities throughout New York. Homes that are left abandoned can become an unsightly presence in communities and can drive down real estate values. In Monroe County, for example, zombie homes are estimated to have decreased the value of nearby properties by about $11 million, according to the Democrat and Chronicle.

In addition to suppressing real estate values, zombie homes are also a burden on taxpayers. While neighbors sometimes try to maintain zombie homes themselves, often it falls on the municipality to ensure those homes are maintained and kept safe. Homes that aren’t regularly maintained present a hazard to community residents, as they can become a fire risk as well as a haven for illegal activities.

Real estate law help

The Foreclosure Relief Act is just one example of the way New York’s real estate law is continually evolving. It should also serve as a reminder to everyone of the need for a real estate attorney when they are involved in a real estate transaction, dispute, or litigation. No matter the issue, an experienced attorney can assist clients with their real estate-related needs, either by preventing problems from arising in the first place or by mitigating the fallout from problems that have already arisen.