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Brookhaven Town seeks to charge banks for inspections of abandoned homes

Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville is shown in

Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville is shown in this undated photo. Credit: Newsday / Bill Davis

Brookhaven wants to charge banks a $100 inspection fee to help cover the cost of verifying that homes have been abandoned as well as help Suffolk County speed up its foreclosure process.

"It will be revenue to the town and will help us cover the costs of the work we're doing," Brookhaven Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto said Monday in a town board work-session meeting.

The town board, at Thursday's meeting, is expected to vote on a resolution authorizing the setting of a $100 fee to inspect the abandoned homes.

In New York State, the average home foreclosure process takes three years. Many officials have expressed the need to find a way to speed it up.

Brookhaven officials said many of the abandoned homes in the town are considered zombie properties, or houses in the foreclosure process that are unoccupied and not maintained. Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine has estimated the town has up to 2,000 zombie properties.

California-based RealtyTrac, which monitors real estate trends, has estimated Long Island has more than 4,000 zombie homes.

In Suffolk County, the state Supreme Court last year created the Vacant and Abandoned Part to speed up foreclosures of abandoned homes.

Under current procedures, if a municipality identifies a home as abandoned, and the homeowner has not filed any legal papers or appeared in court to contest the foreclosure, the court skips the usual process of appointing a referee to calculate the amount owed. Suffolk County District Court Administrative Judge C. Randall Hinrichs then calculates the total debt. At that point, banks contact town officials with the addresses of the vacant homes, which are then inspected to certify they are vacant, Brookhaven officials said.

A Hinrichs spokesman said that inspection process will expedite the foreclosure process by allowing the banks to make a motion to immediately foreclose on the property.

Suffolk County is expected to foreclose on homes in three to six months.

Several banks, including Wells Fargo and Bank of America, and other financial institutions, have agreed to pay the $100 inspection fee to Brookhaven Town, officials said.

"We don't need to be cutting the grass and maintaining them. We need to get them back on the market, hopefully sold to a new home buyer," Eaderesto said.

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