Williamsville going to court to take down zombie home

Oct 30, 2017

Unkempt houses are not uncommon locally, especially those known as zombie homes. Williamsville is tired of one in particular and will be in court to ask a judge to let the South Long Street house be knocked down.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

The house follows a familiar pattern. The owner walked away and cannot be found. The house has been vacant for at least five years. Two banks have outstanding loans on the property and have been paying property taxes.

Now, the banks have notified the village they are walking away from the foreclosure and have dropped the property lien. One unusual item is that the property assessment has continued to rise during all of this.

Village lawyer Charles Grieco says one judge has allowed the banks to walk away.

"Here, the bank had actually instituted a foreclosure proceeding, but then decided they didn't want to complete it and the judge allowed them to discontinue that action, thus keeping the property a zombie," Grieco says.

The village has gone through a complicated process of trying to serve the owner with an order to fix the property. Now the village needs a judge to order the demolition so the building can be taken down.

Mayor Brian Kulpa says the village even tried to get the banks to foreclose and turn the property to Williamsville and the offer was rejected.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"You would think that this property, in that location, the bank would have an incentive to do that," Kulpa says. "In fact, we offered to the bank to do the demolition if we were given the property, just to complete the foreclosure process, sign it over to the village and we will take care of the demolition, to no avail."

There is a new law controlling the increasing numbers of these zombie homes, but it does not apply in this case.

"To maintain the property, if they're vacant or abandoned," says Grieco. "This building is beyond salvage, at this point. It doesn't need maintenance, it needs to be taken down. The Zombie Law also creates an expedited foreclosure proceeding, but that's something that the bank needs to take advantage of. We can't force them to do it. We have no other tools than to now get a judicial order of demolition."