Bronx Tenant Living Rent-Free In Disputed ‘Zombie’ House
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s a deal too good to be true: living rent-free in New York City.
But as CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, that’s what is happening at a two-family house in the Morris Park section of the Bronx — another lingering symptom of the real estate mortgage crisis.
No one is willing to collect rent from the tenant. The building’s owners of record insist they don’t own the place. Manny and Rosemary Liga relinquished the property years ago as collateral for defaulting on a $300,000 loan — an approved bankruptcy plan administered by a court-appointed trustee.
“We surrendered the property,” Manny Liga told Young. “We had to pay the court so much a month for so many years. We’ve done all this, and we thought we were finished with it. And then, I just started getting bills all over again after six or seven years.”
The bills were for water, electricity, gas and taxes.
The Ligas discovered that after they walked away from the house, the mortgage holder never took possession. In fact, someone pretending to be the owner swooped in and rented the place out.
“They rented me the place,” Angela Bennet, who lives in the two-family house rent-free, told Young. “And they fixed all kinds of stuff here. And then everything just started looking crazy, and I didn’t know what was going on. We had no heat. It was freezing.”
The tenant called 311, and the Ligas were ordered to fix the heat, which involved replacing a boiler that had been dismantled and stolen.
Rosemary Liga planned to show Young the new boiler, but the rent-free tenants have changed the locks.
The Ligas’ attorney continues to try to get the bank to accept the deed to the property.
The Ligas say the loan was initially made by Countrywide, but was bundled and resold several times. They say right now they aren’t sure who holds the ultimate rights to the property.
The home is an example of the recent wave of “zombie” homes — properties that have been left in limbo without owners and forgotten by banks.
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