New York State goes after 'zombies'

By Matt Porter

June 5, 2014 Updated Jun 5, 2014 at 6:41 PM EDT

Conklin, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Across New York State, they're left rotting, decomposing, and contaminating every property they touch.

They're known as "zombies", abandoned properties awaiting foreclosure creating health and safety hazards for neighbors.

Ken LeVare lives next to a home abandoned after the 2011 flood, he said all the windows were left open for mold and animals to escape.

"It was always always that terrible mildew, funky smell," LeVare said. "It was always there."

LaVare says he's developed Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) since the owners deserted the Conklin home.

"I have allergies now," he said. "I never used to have to take pills for allergies."

For the last three years, LaVare and his neighbor have spent their own time and money cutting the grass around the "zombie property" just to keep it in shape.

"Somebody should become responsible for these properties, if they're in their ownership, take care of it, do something. But this isn't right," LeVare said.

The proposed Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act, also known as the Zombie Kill Bill, would create a registry with the Office of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of lenders who own a stake in zombie properties.

The registry would make it easier to force mortgage holders to help maintain properties until a foreclosure is final.

Broome County Real Property Commissioner Dave Hamlin said he would welcome the new law as Broome County has more than 300 zombie properties alone.

"It would give us the teeth that we need to maintain these things earlier and keep everything under control," Hamlin said.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-123rd) is a co-sponsor for the bill and said more needs to be done to bring the abandoned properties up to code.

"So pre-foreclosure, they want the banks to identify, secure, and maintain these abandoned or zombie properties as the Attorney General refers to them," Lupardo said.

The Zombie Kill Bill has only a few weeks left to be passed before the end of the legislative session.

Lupardo is optimistic the bill will pass the assembly, but she said its path through the state senate is far more uncertain.

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