New York governor Andrew Cuomo, signs the zombie house bill...

New York governor Andrew Cuomo, signs the zombie house bill into law at Local 25 IBEW in Hauppauge on Thursday, June 23, 2016. Credit: James Carbone

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday said a new law cracking down on banks that fail to clean up abandoned properties will bring relief to communities plagued by the zombie home epidemic.

Saying Suffolk County led the state with more than 700 vacant, foreclosed homes, Cuomo signed the sweeping measure in front of dozens of lawmakers and local officials during a ceremony at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers headquarters in Hauppauge.

He also signed the bill Thursday at ceremonies in Manhattan and upstate Solvay, in Onondaga County, to emphasize that zombie homes are a statewide problem.

Zombie homes, a legacy of the 2008 mortgage crisis, are houses in the foreclosure process vacated by homeowners before banks take title to them.

“I think they’re called zombies because the nightmare of the mortgage meltdown continues,” Cuomo said in Hauppauge. “The nightmare was over as soon as we signed that bill.”

The law, passed early Saturday with bipartisan support, establishes a statewide registry of abandoned properties and a toll-free number for residents to report them. The law also expedites foreclosure proceedings and creates a consumers bill of rights for foreclosure cases.

The law also allows municipalities and the state Department of Financial Services to seek fines up to $500 per day per property on banks and mortgage servicers that fail to maintain vacant houses.

“The $500 fines are going to be a serious deterrent,” Cuomo told reporters after the ceremony. “Banks are not going to want to pay the fine.”

Local officials at the ceremony said the law would help stem property value depreciation at neighboring homes and help local officials clean up blighted houses.

“This legislation will help eliminate the degradation that these properties now impose on our neighborhoods,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

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