ZOMBIE PROPERTIES

Since January, 2016, The Journal News has published a number of articles dealing with abandoned properties where the legal owner has left property because the property is underwater meaning, the property is valued below the mortgage that is in effect.  The owner leaves the bank that holds the mortgage, starts foreclosure proceedings and the property lays abandoned falling into disrepair and a magnet for children to play in the property or even squatters move into the property.

In an article on Monday, January 18, 2016 in The Journal News by Nick Muscavage and Jon Campbell entitled “Zombie Homes Hurt Values”, bank foreclosed properties have racked up 178 violations and caused surrounding properties to lose an estimated $9.2 million in values.  The report from the State Senate Independent Democratic Conference and Mayor Richard Thomas of Mount Vernon examined 82 bank owned properties finding 64 properties having at least one violation or complaint filed against them by their municipality.

In an article on Wednesday, January 20, 2016 by Akiko Matsuda in The Journal News “Zombie Homes Send Chills Through Lo Hud Communities”.  The article refers to the above article and State Senator Jeff Klein and Mount Vernon Mayor Rich Thomas stated properties across Westchester assessed a nearly $20 million was lost in neighborhood home values.  “It becomes not only an eyesore in the neighborhood, an abandoned house is a magnet to vandalism”, according to Haverstraw Town Supervisor Howard Phillips.

Mount Vernon was the hardest hit among 26 Westchester communities, a total of $3.9 million in home values was lost by surrounding homes because of 19 zombie homes.  Another $3.9 million in surrounding home values was lost because of 20 bank owned properties in Mount Vernon.  In Haverstraw, Building Inspector George Bahn said two weeks ago he authorized the town’s Parks Department to cut the overgrown grass of a property in Garnerville.  As long as the property’s appearance is properly maintained, the unoccupied homes won’t have a significant impact on the area’s property value.

Even zombie condominiums have had an impact on surrounding condominiums.  Neighbors of abandoned homes have raised concerns with elected officials because as the abandoned homes deteriorate and create blight, they bring down their property values.

Issues with zombie condominiums are less visible because the outside of the condo complexes are maintained by homeowners associations at the cost of the member condo owners.  The maintenance work as well as other repairs are started by fewer people when one or more than one unit are zombies.  Especially with small condo complexes when their capital improvements have to be done, associations may also pay to heat the abandoned units to keep their pipes from freezing.

The meticulously maintained street and gardens of Heritage Hills Condominium development in Somers, New York does not show signs of deterioration but at least one of the 30 condo associations in the 2600 unit complex has been affected by zombie units.  Two units in an 84 unit condo 7 cluster have remained abandoned for three years.  Both units are “underwater” meaning the property values were less than the owners owed.  Between the three years of common charges and payments for ongoing $1.5 million roof renovation project, the remaining homeowners have paid $70,000 extra to fill the gap.

Executive Vice President of McGrath Management Service, Marty Walkins maintains about 100 condo communities in Westchester, Putnam & Dutchess Counties said abandoned units have been as issue in some of the communities that his company manages.