A "zombie home" in Patchogue on July 14, 2015.

A "zombie home" in Patchogue on July 14, 2015. Credit: Chuck Fadely

Brookhaven officials are planning to create a registry of foreclosed houses to keep track of zombie homes and make it easier to find their owners.

Town officials, who created a registry of vacant and abandoned houses four years ago, said the new registry would help them contact bank representatives when problems occur at financially distressed homes.

Deputy Town Attorney Beth Reilly said during a town board work session Thursday the registry would require banks and lenders to report homes in “any stage of foreclosure.” Lenders would pay a fee to register foreclosed properties and would be required to submit information such as phone numbers for officials to call to investigate problems.

Brookhaven would be at least the third Long Island municipality to create such a registry. Babylon Town did so last year, and Babylon Village followed suit in September.

A 2015 Newsday-News 12 Long Island investigation found Long Island municipalities in 2014 spent at least $3.2 million to clean, board and demolish abandoned homes. The report found Long Island at that time had more than 4,000 vacant, foreclosed houses — known as zombie homes.

A 2016 state law requires banks to register and maintain zombie homes, with daily fines of up to $500 for violations.

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, a former Suffolk County clerk, said Thursday county records could be used to find houses that have been foreclosed.

Other town officials said public records may not be up to date and might lack phone numbers and email addresses for bank officials.

“This would get us contact people — specific people we can talk to” regarding problems at foreclosed homes, Reilly said.

In some cases, officials said they may need to collect fines accrued by vacant homes that have violated town codes.

“You want to get the entity, the lender, to do something, to pay something,” Emily Pines, Romaine’s chief of staff, said.

Town Councilman Kevin LaValle said the proposed $250 registration fee might dissuade some lenders from registering homes.

Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto said the fee was nominal for homes that could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars when they are sold. “I don’t think $250 is going to deter anyone from registering,” she said.

Brookhaven has 950 properties in its vacant building registry, town spokesman Jack Krieger said. Town officials have authorized demolitions of dozens of blighted homes in recent years.

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