In 2016, the New York Legislature enacted the “Abandoned Neighborhood Property Relief Act of 2016” in an effort to combat “zombie properties.” This made substantial changes to New York’s Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (“RPAPL”). The “Zombie Laws” are codified in RPAPL §§ 1308–1310.
A “zombie property” is defined as a one-to-four family residential property that has been (1) foreclosed upon, and is (2) vacant and abandoned. For the statutory provisions to kick in, both of these must be satisfied to be considered a “zombie.”
When a bank or mortgage lender forecloses on a person’s property, the homeowner sometimes vacates immediately after receiving notice of the foreclosure. The property then becomes unattended and subject to falling into complete disrepair. This causes a blight on the community. In some cases, the bank or mortgage lender will commence a foreclosure action but fail to complete the foreclosure process. This failure places the property in a “foreclosure limbo”, where the action is pending, the bank is not moving toward a foreclosure sale, and the property is falling into shambles.
The Zombie Laws were created as an effort to put pressure on the banks and mortgage lenders to step in and take care of these properties that have been thrust into foreclosure.
Although the Zombie Laws only apply to vacant and abandoned properties that have been foreclosed upon, there are other ways in which homeowners can protect their homes. A lot of people think that once their home is foreclosed upon they must move out–this is a misconception. Homeowners can remain in their home until the foreclosure sale. In New York State, a foreclosure action typically takes around 445 days (about 15 months)–you should be able to stay in your home during this time.