Zombie home fight gets help from law students

Apr 5, 2018

A new partner in New York City is joining the local effort to combat zombie properties in Erie County.

Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

Nearly three months after County Clerk Mickey Kearns and the Western New York Law Center launched the Neighborhood Foreclosure ALERT program, Kearns announced a first-of-its-kind partnership with Columbia Law School. Kate Lockhart, with the WNY Law Center, says the project is a great example of how collaboration and innovation can solve problems.
"One of the great things about this project, not only does it bring people from across the state together to find a solution to a problem but it also creates a mutually beneficial relationship between Columbia Law where their students need to have pro bono hours to meet their requirements to become attorneys and communities here in Western New York that need some research done on their zombie foreclosures," Lockhart said, at a news conference Wednesday.

Kate Lockhart with the WNY Law Center joins County Clerk Mickey Kearns in announcing new partnership with Columbia Law School.
Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

The law students, she says, will be able to access County Clerk data online to research properties and inform municipalities who the bank's attorney is, when the foreclosure was filed, and other information needed to enforce the zombie foreclosure law.

The legislation was pushed by Kearns when he served in the Assembly. He says along with helping local governments, the partnership will inform homeowners within a week of a bank taking the first step in the lengthy foreclosure process.  
"Because under the Foreclosure Relief Act you get to stay in your home until the foreclosure is complete. So, we are sending out a letter telling people that they have a right, under the law, to stay within their home. If people stay in their home we will not have another zombie property and we can figure out what the solution is," Kearns said.   

Erie County is the only county in the state sharing information with homeowners and local governments to combat zombie properties. He says with digital record keeping there is no additional cost to taxpayers.