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Florida’s “Zombie Home” Invasion

  • Florida’s “Zombie Home” Invasion

    Florida’s “Zombie Home” Invasion

    The “Zombie Home” problem isn’t a new one, but it is rapidly becoming a nationwide epidemic.  Homes in foreclosure that have been abandoned by their previous owners, or “Zombie Homes,” are more common in Florida than in any other state in the country.  With over an estimated 90,000 “Zombies,” Florida has more than three times as many empty homes as the next closest state.  Combine that number with the fact that the foreclosure process in Florida is nearly the slowest in the nation and it becomes apparent that victims of foreclosure in Florida are at risk of losing more than just their home.

    The “Zombie Home” scenario is most dangerous for homeowners who do not understand the process of foreclosure or who do not know their rights and responsibilities under the law.  Often times, homeowners facing foreclosure abandon their property because they have no wish to fight the foreclosure.  Homeowners will move in with friends or family, expecting the bank to foreclose and take possession.  In Florida, where foreclosures take years to occur, homeowners who have abandoned their properties and moved on can be surprised months later by fines, liens, and property taxes.  Properties that were thought foreclosed remain in the homeowner’s name, racking up numerous violations and fines for everything from uncut grass to broken windows to public nuisance.  On top of these issues, abandoned homes are prime targets for squatters or people looking for a place to stay.  Mold and vandalism can consume a property in a matter of months when no one is acting as caretaker.  Until the foreclosure process is complete, the owner of the home is responsible for the property and everything that goes on there.

    On the flip side of the “coin,” Lenders are fearful of “Zombies” because they do not want to take possession of a property that is abandoned and destroyed.  Abandoned homes are worth less money than well-taken-care-of ones, and “Zombies” can take much longer to sell.  For those reasons, lenders are becoming more willing to pursue foreclosure alternatives like the mortgage modification, deed in lieu, or short sale, to help ensure that properties are being watched over and maintained.  Avoiding foreclosure, and keeping homeowners in their homes, is becoming more of a priority for lenders who are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of properties they now possess.

    Homeowners facing foreclosure need to be aware that a foreclosure lawsuit does not mean that they automatically lose their home.  Until the final foreclosure sale, title of the property does not transfer to the new purchaser.  Homeowners can be found liable for violations that they were not aware of, or worse, can be found liable for a person’s injury sustained on the property in their absence.  More than ever before, homeowners have access to foreclosure alternatives that may allow them to remain in their homes or even stop foreclosure.

    Experienced South Florida foreclosure attorneys, like the Lamchick Law Group, P.A., understand the foreclosure process and work directly with lenders and clients to ensure the best opportunity for success.  In understanding that lenders have an incentive to avoid foreclosure, the Lamchick Law Group, P.A. works hard keep homeowners in their homes.  In any case, do not abandon a property simply because foreclosure is imminent.  Start by consulting a real estate attorney you can trust.  Knowing and understanding the law is just the beginning of fighting foreclosure, and only an experienced attorney can give advice about the path that is right for you.