Kearns’ task force wipes out ‘zombie’ in Clarence, takes aim at others

Clarence

CLARENCE, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Clarence neighborhood is no longer living in fear of a “zombie” after a demolition crew took down the abandoned home Friday.

In the case of a zombie, the homeowner runs away before the bank, or mortgage servicer can take legal ownership of the home. At that point, the one person who has taken care of the property, and has the power to sell it is gone.

The house on Shisler Road has been in foreclosure for nine years, abandoned by the last family to live here.

Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns said, “It has been vacant since 2017. We have had complaints about animals in there. There have been people who have been trespassing on the property.”

Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns has assembled Zombie Foreclosure Task Force that works with local towns and villages to force banks into keeping up or giving up their foreclosed properties.

“To meet with the service providers and mortgage providers, and to make sure we would save this property. Unfortunately, the end result is a demolition,” Kearns said.

But the goal of the task force is getting the banks to take care of their foreclosures while they still have value before they become zombies.

“It is sad. It is a very old house that could have been saved, but it has been basically ignored for years by its owners and by the financial institution that owns it now,” said Clarence Town Supervisor Patrick Casilio.

Over the last 4 years the house has been abandoned, the garage collapsed and the basement has flooded.. leading to damage to the foundation. It is also a harborage for rodents.

For neighbors such as Pam Thomas, it has been more than an eyesore.

“When my stepdaughter was sitting at my kitchen counter, at 9:00 at night, and a mouse comes over the stove, at 9:00 at night when everybody is still awake,” Thomas told us.

Efforts to complete the foreclosure have been hampered by constant changes in loan servicers.

“When somebody realizes they are not going to get their money back they try to shove it off to the next guy. So the four different service providers on this house, that has all been within the last year-and-a-half or so,” said Erie County Legislator Chris Greene, Clarence.

“By the servicer changing, it adds more time and more time, so even when we got an agreement to bring the building down, the servicer changed and then we would have to have another negotiation,” added Kate Lockhart of the Western NY Law Center.

This is the second zombie the task force has taken down in two weeks, but the task force also unveiled a former zombie in Boston that was restored back in March. Clarence officials believe a developer could have a new home at the Shisler Road site in two years.

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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