Zombie Fight Project Completes First "Day of the Dead"

The Niagara Falls Zombie Fight Project is hitting the streets, once again. After a long, cold winter, the Niagara Falls Community Development Department executed its first round of “Days of the Dead” inspections on Monday, April 23, 2018, which included visits to 28 properties, leaving just 34 properties to be inspected over the following weeks. The inspected zombies are associated with the following banks/services: PHH Mortgage Company (7), Nationstar Mortgage LLC (7), Rushmore Loan Management Services LLC (6), Selene Finance LP (4), CitiMortgage, Inc. (4).

What are “Days of the Dead”? They are days when the Zombie Fight Project sends multiple teams out in the field to inspect a large number of zombie properties, defined as vacant homes stuck in a bank foreclosure. The goal of the program is to complete inspections on all remaining zombie properties, throughout the city, and to notify the various banks of violations to be corrected. If the banks do not respond to the violations, the City of Niagara Falls will sue them in New York State Supreme Court under the New York State Zombie Property and Foreclosure Prevention. Earlier this year, the City of Niagara Falls reached a precedent setting settlement agreement with Citizens Bank, based on one such lawsuit.

This month’s “Days of the Dead” marks the home stretch of inspections of properties on our initial list of zombies provided to Niagara Falls Community Development by the New York State Department of Financial Services. Once these inspections are completed, we will have inspected and notified the banks of violations on all zombie properties in the city.

Now that Niagara Falls has defined a successful inspection and legal process—a process that has since been duplicated in many municipalities statewide—we can easily move these properties through that process, allowing us to influence expedited foreclosures and to partner with banks to find appropriate methods of disposition for these properties. 

Our assertive approach has allowed for results statewide as banks are now starting to take a proactive approach. Many municipalities (including Niagara Falls) have seen less code violations on zombie properties and have had more successes in partnering with banks to expedite foreclosures. A number of banks have proactively reached out to us to see how they can work with us most effectively, and some have been willing to work with us on non-traditional methods of disposition. These partnerships can go a long way, and we look forward to continued partnerships with both the banks and our community!

Blog Post By Christine Marino, Niagara Falls Zombie Fight Project Coordnator