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County clerk implements neighborhood foreclosure alert program

A new program to help prevent and combat the foreclosure and “zombie” crisis in Erie County was recently outlined by Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns.

The Neighborhood Foreclosure A.L.E.R.T. Program is a collaborative effort working with each municipality in Erie County to preserve neighborhoods and prevent foreclosures, Kearns said.

Through this program, the county clerk will partner with municipal leaders to assist them in proactively monitoring foreclosures in their communities through lis penden filings at the clerk’s office.

Using the A.L.E.R.T. program, notification of a lis penden filing will be made available to municipalities, alerting them that a foreclosure action has commenced in their community. Kearns said the goal is to provide municipalities with earlier detection of a possible zombie property.

Kearns said that as Erie County clerk, he is uniquely positioned to provide community leaders with access to data that is vital to combating the zombie and foreclosure crisis.

“It is imperative that the clerk’s office has direct and specific information as to who in each municipality is responsible for handling zombie properties so that the flow of information is seamless,” he said.

The new Neighborhood Foreclosure A.L.E.R.T. Program database will be updated every Monday. Municipalities will receive login information to access the database and monitor any foreclosures in their communities. In partnership with the Western New York Law Center, Kearns will conduct training for municipal officials on how to report zombie properties and work with banks to move these vacant properties back on the market.

Using the tools and resources available at the clerk’s office to combat the foreclosure crisis is a top priority of the office, Kearns said, noting that it will continue to be proactive in helping neighborhoods bounce back from zombie blight.

“The Western New York Law Center is proud to partner with Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns to empower municipalities to fight foreclosures in their neighborhoods,” said Kate Lockhart, paralegal with the Western New York Law Center. “By providing data and training to municipalities, we have the potential to both increase the number of families saved from foreclosure and decrease the number of zombie homes across Erie County.”

Another component of the Neighborhood Foreclosure A.L.E.R.T. Program is to alert homeowners of any foreclosure action filed against their property and to notify the owner of the Residential Foreclosure Actions Consumer Bill of Rights, part of the 2016 New York Foreclosure Relief Act, co-sponsored by Kearns as a state assemblyman.

A.L.E.R.T. is an acronym for Accessing Lis Penden data for Erie County and Reporting to Towns, Cities and Villages.

The first training session for municipality leaders will take place Friday, Jan. 26. Weekly reports to municipalities will begin Jan. 29.

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