New York enacts zombie property law

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Wednesday aimed at getting mortgage companies to take quicker action on vacant properties.

The legislation — effective immediately — calls for mortgage holders to initiate and complete foreclosure proceedings or discharge the loan on vacant properties within certain timeframes.


“The new law will give localities a legal remedy to compel action on these abandoned properties by mortgage holders,” New York Assembly Member William Magnarelli, D-Syracuse, said in a press release. “This will help get [the properties] out of limbo and return them to the tax rolls and productive use.”

The new legislation adds to a number of actions the state has taken to reduce its large number of zombie properties. Earlier this year, for example, it allocated $9 million in grant funds to boost compliance with vacant property laws.

New York has 2,266 zombie properties, the most of any state in the country by far, according to Attom Data Solutions.

Contributing to this has been the fact that the Empire State has the seventh longest foreclosure timeline in the U.S. at 1,103 days on average. In addition, Buffalo has the highest foreclosure rate — one for every 798 housing units — of any metropolitan area in the nation.

But while the Empire State still has a high foreclosure concentration in some areas, a long foreclosure timeline and a high number of zombie properties, its backlog of distressed real estate is shrinking.

There were 25,334 foreclosure filings in New York in 2018, down considerably from 46,696 in 2013, according to a report issued by the Office of the State Comptroller in March.

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