Florida has the most zombie foreclosures in the United States. With over 35,000 zombie homes, the Sunshine State is fertile ground to more than three times the national average of these spooky homes left in no man’s land. So, what exactly is a zombie home?
A zombie foreclosure takes place when the homeowner vacates their home after they receive a notice of foreclosure, but for some reason the foreclosure is dismissed, often unbeknownst to the homeowner. As a result, the title remains in the homeowner’s name. A lender may stop the foreclosure process for many reasons: Excess inventory, foreclosure costs cannot be justified, and/or the lender has no interest in taking possession of the home.
Although physically removed from the property, homeowners who face zombie foreclosure may have to pay property taxes, homeowner association fees, past due fines, and local government citations. Additionally, the homeowner will likely feel the effects of any unpaid debts on their already-wounded credit score.
According to RealtyTrac’s 1st Quarter Data, the combination of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami Dade counties ranked as the area with the second highest number of zombie foreclosures in the entire country. New Jersey and New York follow Florida on RealtyTrac’s 2015 zombie foreclosure list.
In Florida, the bank that takes ownership of the vacated property is not required to maintain the property until the foreclosure process is complete, which can take years. The good news is that vacated zombie foreclosures are down from a year ago — the bad news is that they represent a larger share of all foreclosures because they’re often the problem cases wound up in red tape. Markets with drawn-out foreclosure timelines have inadvertently created an incubator for zombie foreclosures.
Just one zombie property in a neighborhood can negatively impact sales of other homes up to a mile of that location. Many zombie residences have been stripped down by burglars taking everything of potential value. Neighbors left with the wreckage often take money out of their own pockets to make improvements on these abandoned homes. The dilapidated residences attract vandals and squatters, making a once peaceful neighborhood unsafe.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is proposing new legislation, a “Zombie Prevention” bill, to hold banks accountable for abandoned homes they bring foreclosures against. However, until Florida adopts similar legislation, the zombie home crisis is likely to keep haunting us.
If you or someone you know is seeking legal guidance and representation from an experienced foreclosure attorney in South Florida, please contact Klein Law Group at 561-220-6659 or fill out the contact form on the right. We offer a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your individual case in family law, bankruptcy and real estate. Our offices are located in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.