NYC is suing lenders over “zombie homes”

The lenders are being held liable for failing to maintain houses on the brink of foreclosure

An illustration of zombies and 1554 Dumont Avenue in Brooklyn (Credit: iStock and Google Maps)
An illustration of zombies and 1554 Dumont Avenue in Brooklyn (Credit: iStock and Google Maps)

The city is taking on lenders of “zombie homes” — decrepit, vacant, distressed houses with unpaid mortgages, which have forced the city to conduct emergency repairs and maintenance.

The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development is seeking more than $1 million from CitiMortgage, Wells Fargo and other home lenders who have allegedly failed to maintain houses on the brink of foreclosure, the department announced.

The cases target five Brooklyn properties and their lenders including Rushmore Loan Management Services LLC at 581 Saratoga Avenue, Ocwen Financial Corporation at 31 Essex Street, Seterus, Inc., at 1554 Dumont Avenue, CitiMortgage at 1889 Bergen Street and Wells Fargo at 1831 Park Place.

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At Dumont Avenue, for example, Google maps shows a white two-story house largely obscured by boards, an abandoned truck trailer, dumpsters, large concrete blocks, the shell of a motorized scooter and tall weeds.

“Zombie homes are blight on our neighborhoods and contribute to the city’s housing shortage,” Maria Torres-Springer, the agency’s commissioner, said in a statement. “Through HPD’s Zombie Homes Initiative, we are holding mortgage holders accountable and intervening at properties that pose public safety risks, while also conducting extensive outreach to help homeowners who may be on the brink of foreclosure.”

HPD partnered with the New York City Law Department bring the cases under the 2016 New York State Zombie Property and Foreclosure Prevention Act.

The city said it had identified as many as 4,000 zombie homes in the five boroughs since the act was introduced and sends warning letters to lenders and mortgage servicers that failed to maintain properties.

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