Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake) announced that she helped pass a series of bills to combat the rise of abandoned residential properties, also known as zombie homes.
Zombie properties damage our communities by lowering property values, serving as sites for criminal activity, and detracting from the vibrant neighborhoods and beautiful scenery of Saratoga and Washington Counties, said Assemblywoman Woerner. These measures will strengthen the rights of homeowners during foreclosure proceedings and help ensure that homes remain under the care of local residents.
The New York State Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act of 2016 (A.6932-A), sponsored by Assemblywoman Woerner, would create new efficiencies in the foreclosure process and facilitate earlier detection and maintenance of vacant and abandoned residential properties. It would also:
- 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 state Attorney General to enforce the maintenance of property requirements; and
- create a statewide registry for abandoned residential property under the supervision of the attorney general and a toll-free hotline for community residents to report the presence of such properties.
In addition to this legislation, Assemblywoman Woerner helped pass bills that would allow homeowners to challenge the legality of a foreclosure proceeding at any point during the process and would clarify the law regarding mandatory settlement conferences, which are often critical in negotiating better outcomes in order to preserve homeownership (A.247, A.1298).
Last year, the Attorney General estimated that there were approximately 16,700 homes that were zombie foreclosures. Currently, New York State has the second-highest number of vacant foreclosures,1 burdening local taxpayers who must bear the costs associated with these abandoned homes. Locally, there are nearly 140 foreclosed properties in Washington County, and another 86 in Saratoga County. The problem is not limited to cities, as smaller towns and suburban communities are also experiencing the negative effects of these abandoned homes, Woerner noted. The Town of Hartford in Washington County alone has six zombie properties.