On Monday, the Center was proud to stand with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, State Senator Jeffrey Klein, and State Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein as they announced the introduction of new state legislation to combat the rise of “zombie homes.” “Zombies” are abandoned homes that are stuck in the foreclosure process, rapidly deteriorating with no one responsible for their upkeep. While banks are responsible for maintaining properties following a foreclosure, zombie properties remain in limbo.

Zombie homes can lead to a decrease in property values, and can have other detrimental impacts on the communities that surround them. According to new RealtyTrac Data reported in the New York Daily News, the number of zombie homes across New York City grew by 38% between 2013 and 2014, bringing the total number of zombie homes in the city to 3,525. Across the state during the same timeframe, that number grew by almost 50%, to a total of 16,701.

The new legislation, the Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act, aims to prevent the spread of this problem by requiring that banks and mortgage servicers maintain vacant and abandoned residential properties throughout the foreclosure process. Banks that fail to maintain the properties once they are deemed “abandoned” would be forced to pay penalties that localities could then use to enhance their enforcement efforts. The bill would also provide that homeowners receive early notice that they are allowed to stay in their homes until they are ordered to leave the property by a court, a right homeowners are sometimes not aware that they have. The bill would further provide that mortgage lenders and servicers take responsibility for properties as soon as they are vacated, and that mortgagees or their agents electronically register abandoned properties with the Attorney General’s Office.

The press conference was attended by partners in the Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), a group of organizations that provide free housing counseling and foreclosure prevention legal services to homeowners, including the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, Legal Services NYC, the Parodneck Foundation, CAMBA, Neighborhood Housing Services of the North Bronx, Neighborhood Housing Services of the South Bronx, Neighborhood Housing Services of Northern Queens, MFY Legal Services, The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, Pratt Area Community Council, New York Legal Assistance Group, Staten Island Legal Services, the City Bar Justice Center, and JASA Legal Services for the Elderly in Queens.