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Friday, October 24, 2014
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State program prevents foreclosures

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - Updated: 2:55 PM

TROY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced March 12 that his office’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) has served 23,760 New Yorkers statewide in less than a year and half, resulting in 6,660 approved and pending loan modifications.

Since October 2012, HOPP has allocated significant funding to 36 legal services organizations and 56 housing counseling agencies dedicated to providing free foreclosure prevention services to struggling homeowners.

Homeowner I-Asia White said, "I am very grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman for supporting this program. If it were not for Legal Aid of Northeastern New York, I would not have known how to navigate this process. Legal Aid has given me the knowledge I need to advocate for myself."

Homeowners who are in need of assistance are encouraged to call the statewide foreclosure hotline at 855-HOME-456 and visit www.AGHomeHelp.com to connect with organizations and agencies in their area that can provide foreclosure prevention services.

Schneiderman also announced legislation that would require lenders to take responsibility for “zombie properties” -- thousands of abandoned homes around the state that are vacant. The bill would also create a statewide registry of zombie properties, so municipalities would be able to track abandoned homes and enforce local property maintenance codes.

The Attorney General’s Office launched HOPP in October 2012, a three-year commitment of $60 million to fund housing counseling and legal services for struggling New York homeowners. HOPP counselors provide at-risk mortgage holders with a range of services, including direct advocacy with lenders, financial counseling and assistance in preparing the complex documentation that homeowners need to submit applications for loan modifications. This process usually results in lower monthly mortgage payments and prevents foreclosures from going forward, but it can take more than a year to negotiate.

ZOMBIE PROPERTIES

Along with providing legal assistance to New York homeowners recovering from the foreclosure crisis, Schneiderman has also proposed new legislation to address the problem of so-called zombie properties. Too often, when a homeowner falls behind on mortgage payments and receives a notice of arrears or a foreclosure notice, s/he abandons the property. Many families may not understand they have the right to remain in their home until a judge declares the foreclosure complete, which can take years.

At the same time, there is evidence that lenders are slowing down the foreclosure process, and in some cases, seeking court orders to cancel the foreclosure action in the middle of the process. With no one maintaining these derelict properties, they become vulnerable to crime, decay, vandalism and arson. Furthermore, zombie homes decrease the property value of neighboring homes and become an enormous burden for local code enforcement and emergency service providers.

An epidemic of zombie homes has impacted communities statewide,. Across the state, RealtyTrac estimates more than 15,000 properties to be zombie foreclosures.

The bill in development by the Attorney General’s Office would close the current loophole, changing state law to make lenders responsible for delinquent properties soon after they are abandoned, not at the end of a lengthy foreclosure process. It would also create a statewide registry for zombie properties, so municipalities would be able to track abandoned homes and enforce local property maintenance codes.

     

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