Foreclosure backlog weighs down Long Island homeowners

A backlog of foreclosure cases on Long Island has a number of overstretched borrowers living in fear of break-ins and looting — unpleasant but common occurrences as abandoned, foreclosed homes in towns like Brookhaven, Islip and Hempstead grow in number.

Long Island’s rate of seriously delinquent mortgages was exceeded only by Tampa and Orlando, both in Florida, and Newark, N.J., among the country’s 25 largest metropolitan areas, according to a CoreLogic report, and home prices are 16 percent below their 2006 peak, according to Federal Housing Finance Agency data cited by Bloomberg News. The especially hard crash in the area came as borrowers took out risky mortgages and then struggled to maintain Nassau and Suffolk counties’ notoriously high tax rates.

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Pending foreclosures make up nearly one third of New York State’s civil caseload, and the backlog is holding up litigation in a number of Long Island cases. The state requires lenders and homeowners to work out modifications to a mortgage or other foreclosure alternatives at the bargaining table together, a process than takes nine months on average.

“This logjam has broken and cases that were backed up are going to sale,” Michael Hanley, senior housing attorney for non-profit law firm Empire Justice Center, told Bloomberg. “The hurt is still coming. We are nowhere near the end, no matter what you hear about national trends and the stabilization of the housing market.” [Bloomberg News]Julie Strickland