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Cuomo, in Solvay, signs law holding banks accountable for 'zombie properties'

Tom Magnarelli
Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the village of Solvay signing a law the regulates banks on foreclosed, vacant properties.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in Onondaga County on yesterday to sign into law a bill that holds banks accountable for vacant or abandoned properties seized through foreclosures. These “zombie properties” as they are known, can bring down the value of other houses in the same neighborhood.

Standing in front of one of these “zombie properties” in the village of Solvay, with weeds creeping up on an unkempt lawn, Cuomo said it was just another example of banks avoiding their responsibilities.

“We’re getting tired of the banks making money on the back of hard working New Yorkers and hardworking Americans and it’s over,” Cuomo said.

The new law gives homeowners a bill of rights that can help them renegotiate or adjust their mortgages. If a home does become vacant, the bank has to maintain it by painting it or cutting the grass; a good neighbor policy so it does not deteriorate and degrade the rest of the neighborhood.

“If the bank doesn’t do it, the bank is going to get fined $500 a day," Cuomo said. "If the bank doesn’t do it, the local government or the state can come in, take over that property and maintain it because enough is enough. This has been going on for years and it really is hurting home values all across the state.”

The new law requires banks to move to sell the homes within 90 days after they are foreclosed.

"We want you  to sell it within 90 days so it gets back on the tax rolls and you don't hurt the local government," Cuomo said.

Cuomo said the banks have been incentivized to hold these properties because if they sell them they have to mark down the mortgage value which hurts their bottom line.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.