Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Vacant 'zombie' houses to get regular inspections and upkeep

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- If you live near a vacant home, a lack of maintenance can lead to a "zombie" nightmare, lowering property values as it creates safety and health hazards.

Beginning this month, relief is on the way for neighbors of some of these properties that are in protracted foreclosure proceedings on Staten Island and across New York State.
Vacant residential homes with first-lien mortgages will get greater attention from 13 banks, mortgage companies and credit unions -- including Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citi Mortgage -- that have agreed to adopt "best practices" to combat blight from properties whose loans they service.

Combined, the 13 financial institutions represent about 70 percent of the state's loan-servicing market, according to the state Department of Financial Services.

The best practices that these institutions will implement include the following:
  • The companies will conduct an exterior inspection of a property within 60 days of delinquency to determine vacancy and abandonment, and then every 30 days thereafter.
  • If the property is determined to be vacant and abandoned, the bank or mortgage company will secure each unit at the property by changing the lock, replacing or boarding up windows, posting the property with contact information, and eliminating other safety hazards.
    Then, on an ongoing basis, the bank or mortgage company will monitor the property's condition to ensure it remains secure and that it complies with applicable provisions of the New York maintenance code (for example, the grass must be cut, and conditions at the property must be safe and sanitary).
  • The companies will also report properties determined to be vacant and abandoned to a state registry that will be developed by the Department of Financial Services, which will share that information with local government officials. The department will work with those local officials to address concerns about maintenance with the bank or mortgage company servicing the loan.
  • After these best practices are adopted and the registry has been created, participating companies will notify the Department of Financial Services of any new properties they have determined to be vacant and abandoned, and the agency will share this information with local officials across the state.
Under existing law, banks and mortgage companies are not required to maintain vacant and abandoned properties until they receive a judgment of foreclosure, often three years or more after filing for foreclosure, the Department of Financial Services explains. It is during this limbo period that some properties fall into disrepair.
The Department of Financial Services will accept complaints from neighbors and local officials about vacant properties, and the agency says that its Mortgage Assistance Unit will work with the applicable bank or mortgage company to resolve issues raised in any complaint.

Complaints can be submitted online at http://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/fileacomplaint.htm
Here is the list of financial institutions participating in the best-practices initiative:
  • Astoria Bank
  • Bank of America
  • Bethpage Federal Credit Union
  • Carrington Mortgage
  • Citi Mortgage
  • First Niagara
  • Green Tree Servicing
  • M&T Bank
  • Nationstar
  • Ocwen
  • PHH
  • Ridgewood Savings Bank
  • Wells Fargo
The full article can be found here: Silive.com.