Officials considering zombie building law
Officials will review options for dealing with zombie properties banks fail to keep up after a mortgage holder defaulted.
TOWN OF ULSTER >> Town Board members plan to review options for dealing with zombie properties that banks fail to keep up after a mortgage holder has defaulted.
The problem was discussed during a meeting last week, with resident Lois Smith saying there are security problems at her home because an adjacent house has been abandoned.
“As time progresses that foreclosure has gone from ... individuals saying they’re from the bank and they have to be there to individuals just showing up and removing items from this house, which really isn’t none of my concern except for when they try to gain access into my home, which is an adjoining town home,” she said.
“I had to put up video cameras and I’m concerned about my child,” Smith said. “Thank God I do have great neighbors who do help out keeping an eye on everything. Just recently some of the other bank people came with three individuals in a mini-van and ... they tried to get into my side of the home.”
Smith told board members police have been called on several occasions but conditions of the abandoned house is deteriorating.
“The door doesn’t lock, the window is open, the mold is growing and there’s rats that have been reported,” she said. “There’s water that’s backing up to my unit now because of the way that drainage is being overrun by leaves and I need to maintain it myself.”
Supervisor James Quigley said the town building inspector will conduct an investigation and attempt to contact the bank about making repairs.
“In this case we have every right to ... issue them a summons and bring them into court for having an unsecured premises,” he said. “We will take and pursue every course of action necessary to get this situation addressed.”
Board members plan to review the type of code revisions that would be needed to keep abandoned properties from falling into disrepair.
“There are other instances where we’ve had properties that have not been maintained and the Town Board has ... authorized the town Highway Department to cut the grass and clean up the outside,” Quigley said. “We take the costs of those services and then add them to the tax bill.”
Town attorney Jason Kovacs said there will be a review of a state law that goes into affect Dec. 20.
“I believe that the towns have a little more power now to compel banks to fix properties that are vacant,” he said. “It looks like a good law and we’ll see if we can use it.”
Quigley said the town may avoid use of penalties recently adopted by Kingston city officials to deal with abandoned buildings.
“They piled on with all these charges for vacant structures,” he said. “I think what they’re going to end up doing is motivating some people to tear structures down rather than pay the fines.”
The city regulations require a property owner or montage holder to pay annual fees of $1,200 each of the first four years of a vacancy, $5,200 for the fifth year, $6,200 the sixth year; $7,200 the seventh year; $8,200 for the eighth year; $9,200 the ninth year; and $10,200 the 10th year.