May 24, 2016

Assembly Passes Legislation to Combat Zombie Homes
in New York State

Speaker Carl Heastie and Judiciary Chair Helene Weinstein today announced the passage of legislation to combat the rising problem of abandoned residential properties by creating new efficiencies in the foreclosure process and imposing requirements for the maintenance of properties by a mortgagee or its loan servicing agent.

"High foreclosure rates continue to affect homeowners and communities across the state and these challenges are further complicated by the rising tide of abandoned residential properties," said Speaker Heastie. "The measures passed today will provide stronger protections against predatory foreclosure practices, ensure continued maintenance of abandoned properties and facilitate a more expedient transfer of ownership that does not harm surrounding property values."

Assembly bill 6932-A the "New York State Abandoned Property Relief Act of 2016", was produced in conjunction with New York State Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman and sponsored by Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, would facilitate earlier detection and maintenance of vacant and abandoned residential properties as well as:

"As we continue to experience the devastating impact of the Recession on homeowners, it is critical that we pursue every avenue to help New Yorkers to remain in their homes," said Assemblymember Weinstein. "Unfortunately, so many properties that have already been abandoned go on to become a burden and an eyesore to the surrounding community. These measures would strengthen the rights of homeowners in foreclosure proceedings and require banks and their mortgage servicers to continue maintenance of the abandoned properties they own so as to prevent any further neighborhood destabilization."

The growing problem of so-called 'zombie homes' or abandoned residential properties is affecting many of New York's communities, particularly in rural and suburban regions where low property values provide little incentive for banks to settle costly and time-consuming foreclosure proceedings. Trends have shown that unscrupulous mortgage lenders often engage in predatory and deceptive business practices against borrowers in an effort to force them from their homes. Additionally, they have permitted delinquent mortgaged residential properties that are vacant and abandoned to fall into disrepair at which point they begin to negatively impact the surrounding property values. Last year, the Attorney General estimated that there were as many as 16,700 homes that were zombie foreclosures. These properties are extremely costly to local governments who are left with the responsibility of securing them at tax-payer expense. If enacted, these measures would go a long way to protect the rights of homeowners, expedite the foreclosure process, and protect the investments of hardworking New Yorkers who live in affected communities.

The other measures passed today would protect the rights of homeowners by extending their currently limited right to challenge the legality of a foreclosure proceeding so that it may be exercised at any point throughout the process (A.247) and lastly, would clarify various provisions of law relating to mandatory settlement conferences in residential foreclosure actions (A.1298) to afford greater protection to homeowners.