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New 'Zombie Law' takes effect

Chris Caya WBFO News

Under a new state law that takes effect Tuesday residents are encouraged to report zombie properties. And people facing foreclosure are encouraged to stay in their homes.

The Foreclosure Relief Act was signed into law to help fight the so called "Zombie Crisis" that's hurt many neighborhoods.

"Christmas is coming early for us when it comes to the fight against vacant and abandoned properties," said Kate Lockhart, with the Western New York Law Center. Lockhart says, banks and mortgage lenders are now required to maintain foreclosed properties.   

"And we really want to make sure that if there are banks that are not complying that we can call them out and that we can inform the Department of Financial Services. And the only way to know that is if municipalities are out there on the front lines letting us know where these properties are, letting us know whether or not they're maintained. And it's not just the municipalities it's also the community members," Lockhart said. 

The law includes creation of a toll-free hotline for people to report zombie properties, a statewide registry to track them, and fines of up to $500.00 per day for every home a bank walks away from. South Buffalo Assemblyman Michael Kearns, who pushed the law says, it also requires banks to inform people of the their right to stay in their home during the lengthy foreclosure process.
"That gives people some breathing room. Especially family members. You might have a young family, they're concerned because they have kids in school. Will they have to leave their house? Will they be able to finish a school year out? In this difficult economic time, will I have to get a new apartment? No. Stay in your home. That's the message," Kearns said.

For more about the Homeowner Bill of Rights contact the New York State Attorney General at (855) 466-3456. To report zombie properties contact New York's Department of Financial Services at (800) 342-3736.