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State AG takes aim at `zombie properties`

State AG takes aim at `zombie properties`
ALBANY - State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is proposing legislation to reduce the number of "zombie properties" -- the vacant buildings lost in mortgage failures that drag down neighborhoods.

He will announce Monday that he is introducing a bill to provide more protection and time for homeowners to stay in their homes. The measure also would provide funding for local governments from Long Island to Western New York to combat the growing problem.

Schneiderman said his analysis found that the number of so-called zombie foreclosures on vacated properties increased by 50 percent last year. Zombie properties are homes vacated by their owners but not yet seized by banks

"Leaving zombie properties to rot is unfair to municipalities and unfair to neighbors, who pay their taxes and maintain their homes," Schneiderman said in a statement.

His bill -- to be introduced to the legislature -- would require banks to maintain properties much earlier in the lengthy foreclosure process and ease the burden on local governments and their taxpayers. Any fines on mortgage-holders or banks would go to a fund to help local governments hire more code enforcement officers who could take action on neglected properties.

Schneiderman's proposed Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act also would require that homeowners be informed of their right to stay in their homes until a court orders them to leave. The bill would require a registry of zombie properties to help municipalities manage the problem.

Schneiderman is scheduled to make his announcement at the annual meeting of the state Association of Towns in Manhattan.

The private firm RealtyTrac, which follows housing and foreclosure trends, reports that zombie foreclosures in New York increased 54 percent between 2013 and 2014, to 16,777, the third-highest total among states. The firm found zombie properties account for 19 percent of New York residential property in foreclosure.

Nationwide, the company found that zombie foreclosures are down 6 percent from last year, but the share of foreclosed properties that are considered zombies rose. One in four foreclosed properties nationwide are considered zombies, and Florida and New Jersey have the most.

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