Hempstead Town officials are looking to double down on their recently passed zombie home law by requiring banks to place a deposit on vacant, dilapidated zombie businesses.
The town is expected to vote Tuesday to pass a bill requiring bank-owned commercial properties to put down a $35,000 payment whenever a business goes into foreclosure.
Zombie homes are those in the foreclosure process.
Town workers would use the funds to maintain vacant businesses, including cutting grass, removing graffiti and maintaining property appearances, such as doors and windows.
Any bank-owned property that does not comply would be fined between $500 to $1,500 per day until they make the deposit.
Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino announced the measure after the town passed a similar penalty last month on zombie homes.
“A blighted business can drive customers away from a local downtown, encourage vandalism and adversely impact local home values,” Santino said. “We’re taking steps to hold lenders accountable. I won’t stand for banks that reap profits on business loans and then walk away from their responsibility to maintain commercial properties once they start a foreclosure proceeding. It’s time to make banks pay, and it’s time to make sure they are better neighbors.”
The town board voted last month to require banks to put down a $25,000 deposit for zombie home upkeep, encouraging banks to maintain homes and sell them quicker in order to deter lower property values and homes falling into disrepair.
Santino said the penalty process would be the same for businesses, which can drive down the values of downtowns and drive away visitors from communities.
If the town spends the entire deposit, banks would be required to replenish the account until the businesses are fixed or sold.
Town board members pointed to several businesses in Elmont, West Hempstead, Seaford and Oceanside that have been shuttered and abandoned by bank lenders.
The legislation is not targeting specific business owners, but properties that have already been turned over to lenders looking to leave properties vacant while waiting for the real estate market to improve, Santino said.
Santino said a Ruby Tuesday restaurant has remained untouched since superstorm Sandy with the final meals on the tables.
“Sandy took a problem and exacerbated it significantly,” Santino said.