Zombie Homes: A News 12/Newsday Special Report

It's a growing blight on Long Island - vacant and abandoned dwellings that have fallen into disrepair during foreclosure - and they're having a significant impact on the Long Island economy. According to a News 12 / Newsday investigation both Nassau and Suffolk lead the state in the number of abandoned or "zombie" homes, costing their neighbors more than $400 million in decreased home values.

Many Long Islanders are looking to their local officials to hold banks more accountable to maintain these abandoned properties. However, banks say the issue is more complicated. When a homeowner abandons a property during the foreclosure process, the bank is not the owner despite moving forward with a foreclosure action. The homeowner, who perhaps is absent, retains title to the property until the foreclosure process is complete - a process that can take years in New York State.

Attorneys familiar with the banking industry argue holding banks accountable for upkeep when they don't actually own the home might discourage banks from making loans in the first place - or create liability for banks during a foreclosure action. But for many local officials, responsibility lies squarely with the industry, they say, created this mess in the first place. 

It's a debate with no easy answers and no easy fix anytime soon.

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