The term “zombie properties” is used to describe residential homes that are neither alive nor dead, but caught in the limbo of an incomplete foreclosure. In these cases, when the mortgage company initiated foreclosure, the homeowners walked away believing the property was no longer theirs. Meanwhile, the mortgage company determines that the property has a low value and abandons the foreclosure, often without notifying the owner.
As the foreclosure proceeding was abandoned, the mortgage lien remains and the title to the property remains with the owner. In Toledo Municipal Housing Court we frequently see owners cited for zombie properties that they were not aware they still owned until they received a public nuisance citation. Oftentimes years have gone by since they occupied the property and the vacant home has fallen into decay, and in many cases, stripped.
The owner is then posed with the question of how to abate the nuisance that their home has become. The remaining mortgage lien typically far exceeds the market value of the property, making repairs or selling the property improbable. In many cases demolition is the end result.
The zombie properties emerged from the housing crisis of 2007-2008 and have menaced neighborhoods and strained city resources in cleaning and securing the vacant homes. If you suspect you may own a zombie property:
- Check the ownership records by your name or address on the Lucas County Auditor’s records on-line at: co.lucas.oh.us
- You may also check the status of a foreclosure filing off the above web address, selecting the “Government” tab, then “Common Pleas Court,” then “Case Information.”
- Access to sheriff sale information may also be found on this website, again first selecting “Government,” then “Sheriff,” “Civil Section,” “Sheriff Sale,” then finally “Sheriff Sale Detail and Results.”
Be aware that if the title to a property is in your name, you are responsible for the maintenance of the property until such time as the deed is transferred to someone else.