The phrase “zombie foreclosure” is used to describe a problem that is increasingly hitting individuals across New Jersey. According to RealtyTrac, a company that tracks national housing data, of all the homeowners in the foreclosure process across the country, one in four vacated the house before the bank repossessed it. This is what is referred to as a “zombie foreclosure” because the home sits empty but the bank does not have possession of it yet.
Not only does New Jersey have the highest rate of foreclosures in the nation, but the state also has the highest rate of zombie foreclosures. According to RealtyTrac, there were an estimated 17,000 zombie foreclosures out of 70,000 foreclosure homes in New Jersey in the second quarter of 2015.
So, what is the big deal about zombie foreclosures? The vacant homes quickly fall into poor condition. The yard becomes overgrown and an abandoned house often invites vandalism, drug dealers and squatters. Without anyone there to protect it, homes with copper piping or wiring are often robbed by metal scrap dealers. All of these factors make it dangerous for the neighbors. They may also cause a significant decrease in the property values in the surrounding area.
There are certain firms that are working to provide a solution to this problem. For example, Community Champions Corp. is working with Gloucester County to create a database of abandoned properties. The database will also include the mortgage holders on the homes. Thus, if issues arise with the property, it provides contact information for the town to have to contact the mortgage holder to address safety issues and get the property cleaned up as a joint effort.
New Jersey municipalities have the authority to establish the registration fees and penalties for non-compliance. The proceeds obtained from the one-time registration fees will be split between the government agencies involved and Community Champions, which can be up to several hundred dollars.
Thus far, the municipalities participating include Clayton, Deptford Township, Glassboro, Harrison Township, Monroe Township, Washington Township, Wenonah, Westville, Woodbury and Woodbury Heights. However, more are expected to participate.
There are a number of different options available to fight back against foreclosure and it is critical to choose the right one for your circumstances. During your free consultation, attorneys Bruce Levitt and Shelley Slafkes will carefully explain all of your options so you can make an informed decision about how to best proceed. Contact us today at 973-323-2953 to schedule a free initial consultation with a compassionate and knowledgeable lawyer.