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Long Island

Bill of rights for homeowners facing foreclosure published by state

New York State officials said Wednesday they have formally published a consumer bill of rights intended to help homeowners faced with possible foreclosures of their homes.

The bill, and a companion set of regulations requiring banks and lenders to maintain vacant houses, were mandated earlier this year as part of a state law designed to combat the proliferation of vacant and foreclosed properties known as zombie houses.

Municipalities and residents across the state have complained that abandoned homes attract vandals and vermin, and lower property values. A 2015 investigation by Newsday and News12 Long Island found that Suffolk and Nassau Counties led the state and ranked among the top 10 regions in the nation in the number of zombie houses.

“These reforms help ensure New Yorkers at risk of foreclosure know their rights, that banks and mortgage servicers are held to their obligations, and that neighborhoods across the state are protected from the blight of zombie properties, which threaten property values, as well as public safety,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement. “These steps will help protect the quality of life in our communities and preserve the American Dream in New York.”

The bill of rights, released Wednesday by the state Department of Financial Services, outlines dozens of protections afforded to homeowers facing foreclosure.

For example, homeowners have the right to take part in all court proceedings and remain in their homes until a court order to vacate.

Banks and lenders are required to submit information about houses in the foreclosure process to the state, which is creating a registry of all such properties. Fines up to $500 per day may be imposed on financial institutions that fail to maintain properties.

The new regulations mirror laws passed by some Long Island towns, such as Brookhaven and Islip, that require banks and property owners to report abandoned homes. Babylon Town requires mortgage lenders to register with the town as soon as a home mortgage goes into default.

Hempstead Town requires banks to post deposits — $25,000 for residential property and $35,000 for commercial property — to recoup the town’s costs for maintaining the sites.

The state this year established a toll-free hotline — 800-342-3736 — that can be used by residents to find out information on vacant neglected homes and to report them.

In October, state officials said 16 Long Island communities had been awarded $3.3 million in grants to monitor zombie houses and hold owners and lenders responsible for maintaining them.

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