Hank Investigates: Zombie Homes

FRAMINGHAM, MASS. (WHDH) - It happens in sunny residential neighborhoods and in tree lined suburbia, once desirable homes now empty–abandoned after banks threatened owners with foreclosure. Now look what inspectors are finding behind their closed doors.

In this empty Worcester home: An ugly stash of needles and junk.

In Clinton: Empty liquor bottles and beer cans stacked to the ceiling.

Experts call them zombie homes.

Robert E. Finn, National Community Stabilization Trust: “It’s a huge problem that sometimes doesn’t get the attention it really deserves.”

Why isn’t anyone cleaning up these once attractive houses? Officials tell us: After the owners vanished, banks and lenders ignored the homes!

Hank: “Why do the lenders just leave the houses like that?
Commissioner Michael Tusino, Framingham Inspectional Services: “I don’t know, we can’t get an answer, we ask that question frequently and we never get an answer to that question.”
Hank: “What do you think about that?”
Tusino: “It’s terrible.”

We found across Massachusetts communities struggling to fight zombies. And we found there are hundreds of them statewide, which are often falling apart and dangerous. Sometimes squatters sneak inside. And often no one is paying property taxes.

Eloise Lawrence, Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Harvard Law School: “The rest of the community is left to pay the price of this neglect.”

And the zombie plague is spreading! In Massachusetts this year, the number has already gone up 20 percent!

Framingham town officials are tracking down zombies, they showed us the zombies there are so pervasive, the town’s turned to attorney general’s office for help tracking down an owner, a bank, someone, to take responsibility.

Tusino: “It’s very important. It effects property taxes, health safety of neighborhoods, very important.”

Officials say neighborhood residents can be part of the solution; if you see a house you suspect has gone zombie, call your local officials and report it.

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