Zombie foreclosure could mean free house for some

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - At the end of a cul-de-sac in Boynton Beach's Dos Lagos neighborhood sits one of two empty foreclosures on the street.

"It's just in limbo. Waiting for the bank to come and take it," neighbor Don Ledsworth showed NewsChannel 5.

Ledsworth says no one has lived there in years.

"We cut the grass and make sure it's kind of presentable," Ledsworth said.

The foreclosure process started in April 2010, and for whatever reason, the bank hasn't finished.

It's one of possibly two million so-called zombie foreclosures in the U.S.

"So the homeowner, unbeknownst to them, actually remains on the title to the property. Meaning they're still responsible for the real estate taxes, for maintaining the property, for anything that happens on the property, god forbid someone gets hurt," real estate attorney Shari Olefson said.

Olefson told NewsChannel 5 in some cases it doesn't make sense for the bank to foreclose.

"The property value has gone down. By the time they get the home it needs a lot of repairs, and there's back taxes, and they're just not going to get enough money to pay off the loan anyway," Olefson said.

So how do you know you're not the owner of a zombie foreclosure?  Check public records. And if you're still on the title of your foreclosure, ask your bank its intentions.

Olefson says under some foreclosure settlement deals banks are required to forgive the mortgage.

"Theoretically there may be people who moved out of their home 2 or 3 years ago don't realize they still own it and now are in a situation where the bank is willing to forgive their mortgage," Olefson said.

To check property records in your county click below:

Palm Beach County

St. Lucie County

Martin County

Indian River County

Okeechobee County

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