Kearns gears up for ‘zombie’ fight after Covid moratorium

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(WIVB) – Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns is bracing for a wave of home foreclosures with the state and federal moratoriums set to expire in the next two months.

But Kearns also says homeowners facing foreclosure should not panic.

Erie County Clerk wants homeowners on the verge of foreclosure to know their options

Woodside Avenue in South Buffalo is a neighborhood in transition.

New owners are fixing up their homes, but they are also looking after number 66 – a zombie property – that has become an eyesore.

“I would imagine the neighbors on both sides there would love something done to that house,” Woodside Avenue resident Mike Gibbons said. “You’ve got to look in your yard and then look at the yard next to it that looks a mess, at least a house that looks a mess.”

Bank foreclosures are filed in Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns’ office, but it has now been 15 months since those cases could proceed.. and Kearns says the Erie County Foreclosure Task Force is going to hold banks’ feet to the fire to keep the flood of foreclosures from turning into zombies.

“We are preparing for a crisis in our community, that there will be a greater number of filings because of Covid-19,” Kearns said. “We will be hitting the streets, we will be working with the block clubs and the neighbors. We want to make sure the banks do their part and follow the law.”

Housing advocates encourage homeowners who receive a foreclosure notice to stay in their homes.. for more time to get help, and prevent the property from falling into disrepair.

“To try to work out a solution – it is better for everyone involved, it is better for the communities,” said Jordan Zeranti of the Western New York Law Center. “The banks would prefer it because they don’t want to have to maintain the properties that are left vacant. So it is better for everyone.”

Kearns says with housing prices through the roof, homeowners who fall behind now have more options, such as a short sale to pay off the bank, and his office will go after banks that foreclose but fail to maintain the property.

“They could be held accountable for up to $500 per day that the property was not kept in compliance,” Zeranti said.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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