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Sept. 1, 2013
by Scott Gunnerson @ FL Today
Zombies are everywhere lately, it seems. TV shows, video games, even chasing runners during special 5K races.
You might even have a zombie next door. The first sign of trouble: An unmaintained yard, growing wild amid Florida’s summer heat and rain.
“Zombie” properties — homes abandoned by the owners, but still not reclaimed by banks — continue to be a problem in Brevard County even as the worst of the foreclosure crisis has passed.
In Brevard, there were 6,920 homes somewhere in the process of foreclosure in June, according to RealtyTrac, a California-based real estate information company.
Of those, 1,903 are homes vacated by their owners, the company says.
RealtyTrac compared data of properties in default or scheduled for foreclosure auction with data from the U.S. Postal Service indicating whether a home has been vacated by the homeowner.
Florida had 55,503 owner-vacated properties in June, more than any other state.
“Florida has the twin problems of a high foreclosure rate and a very lengthy foreclosure process,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.
“That means it is more susceptible to having these zombie foreclosures, because you have a homeowner who could be in foreclosure for two or three years and decides to walk away from the situation.”
Brevard, with 28 percent of foreclosed homes vacated, was above the national average of 20 percent and state average of 23 percent.
The problem is particularly acute in the summer when it quickly becomes obvious which homes are not being maintained.
“The rainy season is always my busy time,” says Maddie Curtis, Rockledge’s code enforcement officer. “My case load doubles or triples this time of year.”
When the lawn grows too high, along with other signs of neglect, Curtis steps in. But with a zombie, neither party will take responsibility and the city is left to maintain and place liens on the property.
She sends e-mails to banks and homeowners, makes followup phone calls, and e-mails pictures of violations while she builds a case file on each property.