Babylon Town has hired a new company to track homes in foreclosure and passed legislation to allow for the demolition of blighted buildings that have been abandoned at least five years.
The town created a "mortgage in default" registry in recent years, listing homes that are in foreclosure and including the names and contact information of owners and mortgage holders as well as any property managers.
Owners of these registry properties, which include blighted, abandoned homes commonly called "zombie houses," must pay annual fees.
The company the town previously used to register homes in the foreclosure process, Florida-based Property Registration Champions, known as ProChamps, filed for bankruptcy in June.
The town has hired Hera Property Registry LLC, of Melbourne, Florida, to take over the registry and placed a moratorium on registrations until Nov. 2.
The company will take over the previous arrangement, evenly splitting registry fees they collect with Babylon, said Town Attorney Joe Wilson.
In 2022 the town collected $269,300 in fees, with 2,693 homes on the registry, said town spokesman Ryan Bonner.
The town had charged $200 per property, but is reducing it to $75 after the state earlier this year mandated that fees couldn't exceed that amount, Wilson said.
The money the town collects is used in part to pay Long Island Housing Partnership to offer assistance to residents facing foreclosure, he said.
The Hera contract is for one year with five one-year renewal options.
Lindenhurst Village, which used ProChamps, also signed a contract with Hera. Lindenhurst Deputy Clerk Katie McCaffrey said it includes an even split of fees.
Towns including Brookhaven and Riverhead also used ProChamps. Brookhaven now is doing the work in-house, Newsday previously reported. Riverhead officials recently said they are considering a company called MuniReg.
Wilson said having a registry, which includes a local contact person responsible for the property upkeep, has been invaluable in the zombie home fight.
“We can contact that person and tell them, ‘Hey the grass is getting high, can you send a landscaper? Or hey, the door is wide open, send someone to secure the doors,’ ” he said. “It does cut down on having to use town resources to maintain these properties.”
Babylon Town's new legislation consists of code additions that allow town officials to remediate or demolish dilapidated buildings — including zombie houses — if they have deemed the structures a safety hazard and they've been abandoned at least five years.
The town will notify an owner by certified mail and a hold a public hearing before taking any action, Wilson said.
Remediation and demolition costs will go onto the property owner's tax bill, he said.
With Tara Smith