A new statewide hotline will allow residents to report vacant, abandoned homes in their neighborhoods and add them to a state registry, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Tuesday.
The hotline to report these neglected zombie homes is part of the legislation signed by Cuomo last week aimed at addressing such eyesore properties. Zombie houses are those that are in the foreclosure process and have been vacated by their owner but banks have not taken title. Often these homes fall into disrepair and become havens for rodents and squatters.
A report last year by Newsday and News 12 Long Island found that Long Island led the state and ranked in the top 10 counties in the nation for the number of zombie houses.
Newsday’s yearlong analysis found that local municipalities in 2014 spent more than $3.2 million to maintain vacant houses and that such properties cost Long Island at least $295 million in depreciated home values.
The toll-free hotline -- 800-342-3736 -- can be used by residents to find out information on vacant neglected homes and to report them. The information will then be entered into a database maintained by the state Department of Financial Services.
If a property is not already in the registry, DFS will identify the mortgage servicer and begin the process of ensuring the property is maintained.
Under the new legislation, banks and mortgage servicers must report vacant properties within 15 days of learning they are abandoned and municipalities and the DFS can seek fines up to $500 per day per property from companies that fail to maintain vacant houses.
Last year, Cuomo and the DFS reached a deal with 13 banks, mortgage companies and credit unions in which they agreed to adopt a set of “best practices” to maintain homes during the foreclosure process, which in New York averages nearly three years, one of the longest in the country.
However, that deal did not include fines or punishments for the companies, something that local officials said did not give the deal enough teeth to be effective.
In addition to the hotline, residents can report vacant, ill-maintained homes online at www.dfs.ny.gov.