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A New Tactic to Fight Zombie Homes

This June, Washington state will implement a new law (HB2057) designed to combat abandoned zombie properties and streamline interactions between government and lenders when it comes to preventing urban blight as the properties fall into disrepair.

As reported by the Spokesman-Review, the law is set to take effect beginning in June. The law allows Washington municipalities to directly contact the lenders or servicers responsible for the property and report problems such as squatters, tall grass, or accumulated garbage on the property. The contacted party then has 15 days to respond, and 15 days after that to resolve the problem. If the lender does not comply, the city can then legally hire someone to take care of it and then bill the lender. If that payment is not made, the city can then place a lien on the property.

The law also requires that the city’s communications with lenders include a sworn affidavit affirming that the property is indeed abandoned or causing problems, along with time-stamped photos of the property in question.

The law was the subject of over a year of contentious debate and negotiations between lenders, advocacy groups, and state and local government, with Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines) leading the charge on finding a compromise all parties could agree to. The law now takes effect on June 7, 2018.

“Community Blight Solutions and SecureView applaud the Spokane city officials and the Washington legislature for taking steps towards solving the blight problem,” said Robert Klein, Chairman and Founder of Community Blight Solutions and SecureView. “The passing of HB2057 represents proactive governance in the protection of families and neighborhoods.”

The Washington law is just the latest in a wave of recent legislation and regulation designed to combat zombie properties. Communities such as Oyster Bay, New York, have banned the use of plywood in securing abandoned properties. Some states have moved to implement fast-track foreclosure laws to try and get the properties turned, refurbished, and back on the market faster. The New York state government recently began purchasing distressed mortgages in order to try and keep the owners in the homes so they never become zombie properties in the first place. Columbia Law students have even begun assisting some local communities with tracking the foreclosure status on abandoned properties.

The battle against zombie properties is a persistent and complicated one, so communities, lenders, and servicers may need every tool at their disposal to fight it properly.

About Author: David Wharton

David Wharton, Online Editor at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his B.A. in English and minored in Journalism. Wharton has over 15 years of experience in journalism and previously worked at Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm, as Associate Content Editor, focusing on producing media content related to tax and accounting principles and government rules and regulations for accounting professionals. Wharton has an extensive and diversified portfolio of freelance material, with published contributions in both online and print media publications. Wharton and his family currently reside in Arlington, Texas. He can be reached at David.Wharton@DSNews.com.
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