Clouded property titles invite neighborhood blight. Simple steps by the courts can produce huge results.
By Gregg Hagopian | Governing
In February, RealtyTrac reported that one in four U.S. foreclosures are “zombies”: homes where the owner has vacated the property but the lender isn’t proceeding diligently to end the case and so hasn’t taken ownership. With the title clouded, neither the lender nor the owner maintains the parcel, so it falls into disrepair and becomes a blighting influence on the neighborhood.
The hardest-hit states include California, Florida, Illinois New Jersey, New York and Ohio, but zombies can be found everywhere. While some states have laws shortening the foreclosure process for an abandoned parcel, the fix that’s needed isn’t solely one for legislatures. The courts also play a crucial role. Improved judicial supervision of mortgage-foreclosure cases can prevent zombies, lessen blight and strengthen neighborhoods.