Buffalo’s out of town property owners: just more absentee landlords?

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – It’s no secret Buffalo has its fair share of vacant properties. In fact, there are thousands of empty homes across the city. But even as Buffalo’s real estate market turns red hot, the question remains: who is responsible for these eyesores plaguing the city?

For residents living in the inner city, rising real estate values can be less of a blessing and more of a curse. Foreign investors are getting in on the action, but in some cases, they might just be another absentee landlord.

Matt Henry and his fiancee Mariah Tyner are stuck in an apartment with no gas and no electricity, but they have been unable to get their security deposit back to try to move on.

RELATED | See our original report on Henry and Tyner here

“I can’t cook, I can’t store food in the house. I can’t do laundry, I can’t clean the house, vacuum, rub, scrub, or any of that. It has been hell,” said a frustrated Tyner.

She and Henry have tried to reach their landlord, but he is in Kuwait, a country on the other side of the world. He was attracted to Buffalo because of the hot real estate market, but he also beyond the reach of local courts.

Inner city residents are also facing other out-of-town challenges, such as large national banks that have created a plague of vacant properties that were foreclosed on, but the banks declined to take ownership.

Hedley Place Block Club president Lyn Osorio showed News 4 a vacant house in the Canisius College neighborhood that has been empty for years.

“It was one of the most gorgeous houses over here,” lamented Osorio.

Vandals and time are taking a toll, but anyone interested in buying the property has been out of luck.

The last owner of record for the property died years ago, and the bank foreclosed on the mortgage but did not take title to the property. For anyone interested in buying this, that’s the problem: the titleholder has to consent to the sale, but he is dead. The bank pays the property taxes.

Joy McDuffie, an attorney with the Western New York Law Center, said her agency is trying to get the bank’s foreclosure reversed, to open the property up to potential home buyers.

McDuffie suspects unless the foreclosure is vacated, the property will continue to deteriorate.

“It appears that the family is not interested, the estate is not interested, because you would have to fork over a large amount of money to take claim to the property, and it would just leave the property sitting there, dilapidated, until it no longer has any value.”

Osorio wants to see the property go to someone who would buy the house as a home, not an investment property.

“Getting families in here, and not having another absentee landlord, who just wants to rent it out to get money from the college students, which is the big thing over here, and that’s not right.”

Ironically, since the bank did not take title to the house on Hedley Place, the deed to that property is still in the name of its owner, who died years ago. So if the foreclosure can be vacated, potential home buyers would have to deal with the late owner’s estate, which McDuffie believes would be easier than buying it through the bank.

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