The Babylon Village board of trustees has approved creating a registry of properties in financial distress in order to more effectively combat blight.
The 5-0 vote on Sept. 12 authorizing the statute will enable the village to hold banks and mortgage companies with homes facing foreclosure more accountable for the maintenance and security of their properties, Village Attorney Joel Sikowitz said.
“I hope we won’t have to use it, but if we do need it, it gives us some leverage against the lending institutions holding the mortgages,” Sikowitz said.
Babylon, a community of 12,000 residents, has not been immune to the problem of so-called zombie homes — abandoned properties in the foreclosure process that have blighted neighborhoods across Long Island. A report in 2015 by Newsday and News 12 Long Island found that Nassau and Suffolk led the state and ranked in the top 10 counties in the nation for the number of zombie houses.
There may be 30 to 50 such homes in Babylon Village and their ranks may be growing, Sikowitz said.
Their unkempt lawns and broken windows can drag down nearby property values and create havens for unsavory activity, according to the law.
While the village already has a number of property codes mandating a strict standard of tidiness, the commercial banks and credit lenders that start foreclosure proceedings may not be present to comply with them, the law reads.
Under the new statute, lenders would have to register any village parcel in default of a mortgage, facing foreclosure or already disposed of in a foreclosure sale.
Lenders would have to carry out monthly inspections to ensure sites are up to code, renew their registration every six months, and pay a $500 fee each time.
Sikowitz said the registry is modeled on one created last year by the Town of Babylon. That registry contains more than 1,000 financially distressed homes, according to town spokesman Kevin Bonner.
Sikowitz said the village intends to hire a private company to manage its registry — a plan that the village board will likely vote on later this fall.