Zombie wars: Ohio law aims to reduce blighted properties

Zombie wars: Ohio law aims to reduce blighted properties
Posted at 4:53 PM, Sep 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-27 16:53:45-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A new Ohio law is being viewed as a national model for eliminating zombies - zombie properties, that is.

The measure taking effect Wednesday speeds up foreclosures on vacant and abandoned properties, called zombies because they languish like the living dead.

The legislation was passed in the General Assembly and was signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich. It establishes a fast-track system trimming Ohio's foreclosure process from two years or more to as little as six months.

Backers say the law protects property owners' rights by requiring at least three of 11 listed factors to be present before foreclosure can begin. Factors include disconnected utilities, boarded-up windows and accumulated trash.

A Cleveland-based advocate for the law, Robert Klein, said one of the main issues leading to zombie properties is the length of the foreclosure process.

"A vacant property is not a bottle of wine. It does not get better with age," said Klein, whose companies promote property preservation and fight blight. "Nobody wants to live in a neighborhood where properties have become blighted."

Klein said houses that sit vacant for two or three years can be susceptible to vandals and pests or become havens for criminal activity. That lowers a neighborhood's desirability and eventually area property values.

The new law makes it a crime for an owner to purposefully do physical harm to a property.