Do you notice that there seem to be more and more "zombie properties" in your community?  I have seen quite a few around my Oneonta community.  In fact, there is a zombie property right across the street from me and it's awful to look at.  You can check out the unsightly photos below. And that house is only one of many I have noticed near my home.

Everyday when I walk my dog past it, I always think, "I wish someone would at least mow the lawn".  The grass is well over a foot tall.  It's not just unsightly, I worry about ticks with all that tall grass.  Who is responsible for this?  Why are so many homes vacant for years and falling apart with no one taking care of them?

These are questions I felt compelled to have answered and after doing some on-line research I discovered why this happens.

According to the New York State Department of Financial Services, once the homeowner stops paying the mortgage, there is a 90 day period where they will receive notices from the lender before the foreclosure process begins.  After that 90 day period where no payments are made on the mortgage, the lender starts the foreclosure process which may include referring the loan to its foreclosure department, hiring an attorney to initiate foreclosure proceedings, recording a formal notice of foreclosure or “lis pendens” with the court and serving the homeowner with notice of the action through a “summons and complaint.” That all takes about 7 to 9 months.

So why do those homes end up sitting there for years untended?  What can happen is that homeowners who have received notice of foreclosure may believe they have no other option but to lose their home and simply move out to avoid going through the legal process. Others may not know that they have the legal right to continue living in their houses unless the court orders them to leave.  That means those homes can sit abandoned for years because lenders either discontinue or delay the foreclosure process and won't start tending to properties until they take title at the end of the long foreclosure process. Even then, once they officially own the property, those same lenders may not make a move to maintain it even though according to the law, they are supposed to.  It is simply not being enforced.  Meanwhile, those zombie properties decline since no one is managing them. Vacant homes attract unwanted critters and insects who find them very hospitable and end up bringing down a neighborhood.

What can be done?  This may be best addressed on the local level.  Contact your local government representatives and share your concern about zombie properties.  The more people do this, the better the chance of eliminating zombie properties and increasing the attractiveness and safety of our neighborhoods.

Just say "no" to properties that look like this...