A boarded-up house in Brentwood seen on Dec. 18, 2014....

A boarded-up house in Brentwood seen on Dec. 18, 2014. It is among the zombie houses on Long Island, according to California-based RealtyTrac. Credit: Chuck Fadely

Deserted, uncared-for homes are bad business for everyone.

They're bad for neighbors who see their quality of life and property values erode as the abandoned residences and yards do. They're bad for municipal officials who are expected to provide a safe setting for residents. They're even bad for the banks letting these houses deteriorate, because sooner or later they will have to get as much money as possible from the resale of these shabby properties to cut their losses.

Newsday and News 12 Long Island's series exposing the local zombie house problem woke people up to this debilitating regional issue. Long Island not only leads the state in zombie properties, its counties rank in the top 10 nationally for numbers of unoccupied homes in foreclosure. That's not surprising, because the process in New York takes an average of three years, fourth longest in the country.

The banks have often claimed that because they haven't yet taken legal ownership after a completed foreclosure, the upkeep is not their responsibility. It's a silly argument -- and one that should infuriate bank shareholders as much as neighbors. The banks shouldn't let assets fall apart, even they can get away with it. As of Jan. 31, there were about 2,000 of these homes each in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and many have been allowed to become dilapidated.

In response to the media coverage, State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is pushing for a law that would fine banks $1,000 a day for failing to maintain houses in foreclosure. But thanks to mounting pressure, it was announced Monday that most of the big banks with foreclosures in New York have voluntarily agreed to monitor such homes and maintain them if they become vacant. Although the law should still be pursued, this agreement is a good start, and it is good news for the neighbors of such houses and the communities of Long Island.

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