April 30, 2014
by Robert H. King
Rosicki, Rosicki & Associates, P.C.
USFN Member (New York)
Vacant property news came to the forefront of New York foreclosure law earlier this year. There’s legislation pending that would increase the number of land banks, require foreclosure plaintiffs to maintain vacant properties upon notification that the property is abandoned, and create a statewide registry to track abandoned homes.
In a February 21, 2014 press release, the New York State Attorney General’s office lauded the Home Owner Protection Program, which claims responsibility for 6,600 approved and pending loan modifications, but took issue with the lengthy foreclosure process for the increased number of vacant and abandoned properties.
Under current law, a foreclosure plaintiff is only required to maintain a property when a judgment of foreclosure and sale has been obtained. However, when the chief administrative judge for the Office of Court Administration imposed administrative rules, which some say were designed to slow down the foreclosure process in 2010 and 2011 during the economic recession, the pathway to obtain such a judgment narrowed to a trickle. It could appear that New York State is struggling with conflicting policies: Keep homeowners in their homes at all costs but, at the same time, speed up the foreclosure. This conflict is evident in the courts of Kings and other counties, which began to summarily dismiss foreclosure actions for failure to prosecute.
Currently pending in both houses of the New York State Legislature are companion bills that would amend the Real Property Actions and Procedure Law to allow summary foreclosure proceedings for vacant or abandoned properties. The proposed legislation will allow a foreclosing plaintiff who reasonably believes a property to be vacant or abandoned to make the allegation in the complaint and to move for a judgment of foreclosure, even when a defendant serves an answer but fails to contest the allegations that the property is vacant or abandoned.
The law as proposed defines vacant property as a property not occupied by a mortgagor or a tenant with a lease agreement in possession prior to the foreclosure action, and presents one of the following situations: (1) property is not maintained by the mortgagor in accordance with law; (2) the property is a risk to health, safety, or public welfare; (3) the property is subject to uncorrected municipal violations or housing codes; (4) a written statement by the mortgagor of expressed intent to abandon the property; or, (5) there is reasonable indicia of abandonment. If these bills pass in their current form, the anticipated effect will be a reduction in time frames in obtaining a judgment of foreclosure and sale — at least for vacant properties.
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Spring 2014 USFN Report