Niagara Falls Takes Citizens Bank to Court
Zombie Houses Legal Complaint Filed in
New York State Supreme Court
September 27, 2017 – The City of Niagara Falls officially served Citizens Bank with a legal complaint at company offices in Rhode Island and Virginia. Pursuant to the New York State Zombie Property and Foreclosure Prevention Law, the complaint details violations of the newly enacted law at five vacant houses, stuck in lengthy Citizens Bank mortgage foreclosures. “We have made it clear that prolonged foreclosures and blighted properties are unacceptable in Niagara Falls neighborhoods,” said Seth Piccirillo, Director of Niagara Falls Community Development. “The Citizens Bank legal service is tangible proof of our level of seriousness on zombie properties.”
The City of Niagara Falls is one of the first statewide municipalities to file such a complaint in New York State Supreme Court, seeking a $500/day fine from the time of initial correspondence on July 10, 2017. The city is also requesting judicial intervention in the foreclosure proceedings in order to expedite the foreclosure process on these vacant properties.
If successful, this case will set legal precedent for future cases seeking restitution under the Zombie Property and Foreclosure Prevention Law, enacted in December 2016 with strong advocacy from New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The law allows municipalities in New York State legal recourse in cases where banks are not maintaining properties while they are in foreclosure. Exterior code violations were found at all five Citizens Bank properties named in the complaint and these violations have not been brought to code since initial contact with the bank’srepresentatives. The City of Niagara Falls’ ultimate goal is for the foreclosure process to be completed at these, and all other zombie properties, allowing them to be listed for sale via a local realtor.
Christine Marino, Niagara Falls Zombie Fight Project Coordinator said, “The minimal response we have received from Citizens Bank was not solution focused. We stated in our initial letter to Citizens Bank that, per the law, if the properties are not brought to code, it is our responsibility to the community to take legal action, and that is what we are doing, on behalf of our residents.”