Education and Services

What is a Zombie Home?

A zombie home is a vacant property in which the homeowner moves out of due to mortgage default and threat of foreclosure. The home becomes a “zombie” because the bank has not completed the foreclosure process. In some cases, the bank decides to abandon the foreclosure years after determining it no longer wants the property. This allows the banks to reap the tax, insurance, and accounting benefits from documenting a loss. In turn, the zombies haunt former homeowners who find themselves legally liable for properties they did not even realize they still owned. All the while, the zombies bring down property values and negatively impact entire communities.

On June 23, 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law Part Q of Chapter 73 of the Laws of New York 2016, also known as the Zombie Property and Foreclosure Prevention Law. The Law amends New York Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (RPAPL) Section 1308 to require holders of first lien mortgages, or their servicing agents, to secure and maintain vacant one-to-four family properties. Banks or servicers that fail to maintain properties can face potential penalties of up to $500 per day per property. Further, RPAPL Section 1309 creates an expedited foreclosure process and RPAPL Section 1310 establishes a statewide database of abandoned properties to be maintained by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

Services Available

The Western New York Law Center will provide services to municipalities based on the awarding of Zombie 2.0 grants.

Municipalities not awarded Zombie 2.0 grants are eligible for services listed under both “Community Engagement” and “Technical Assistance.” Municipalities awarded Zombie 2.0 grants are eligible for services listed under “Community Engagement.” Services include, but are not limited to:

Technical Assistance

  • Represent homeowners in zombie foreclosures
  • Research zombie properties
  • Train municipal staff on zombie laws
  • Counsel and advice re: zombie properties
  • Help develop a municipal strategy to address & prevent zombie properties
  • Represent municipalities enforcing zombie laws*

* determined on case-by-case basis by Western New York Law Center 

Community Engagement

  • Collect/respond to zombie property complaints
  • Presentations to community members
  • Education about foreclosure prevention
  • Answer questions about zombie properties
  • Contact local news media when necessary