Sadly, they are seemingly everywhere. Already a problem due to the Great Recession, Hurricane Sandy only made it worse locally - thousands of abandoned homes, their owners long gone because they cannot afford to pay their mortgages or the cost of rebuilding - or both.
And as state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, noted recently, "Nothing good happens in an abandoned building." Sooner rather than later, the properties become overgrown, fall into disrepair, attract vandals and become a blight on the neighborhood.
The problem has been made worse nationally by once-rare "bank walkaways" or "zombie foreclosures." A lender initiates a foreclosure proceeding, the owners move out (even though they are not required to do so), and at some point during the lengthy foreclosure process, the bank decides that taking the property will cost more than the bank is likely to get for it. So the bank, too, walks away - in many cases without notifying the borrower or the municipality.
These properties can quickly become eyesores. Municipalities can try to go after the long-gone homeowners to correct code violations. But good luck with that. And since banks don't have title to the property - they cannot be required to maintain it under current law.
That's the genesis of a bill (A347) approved 72-2 last week by the state Assembly. The measure would make any creditor that has filed a notice of intention to foreclose - the first step in the process - responsible for any code violations at the property. Creditors would be required to file that notice with municipalities at the same time the owner of the property receives it.
This would give municipalities a needed tool to maintain neighborhoods. If the property is vacant, the measure would allow towns to require the creditor to address code violations.
The banking industry will, no doubt, object. But consider: Judith Fox, a Notre Dame Law School professor who is researching abandoned foreclosures, told American Banker magazine last April that the process is a form of "redlining" because most bank walkaways occur in low-income minority communities.
And the last thing an already-distressed neighborhood - or any neighborhood - needs is another abandoned property where no one can be found to address code violations.
New Jersey needs this law.