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Sunderland residents complain to Bank of America of ‘eyesore’

  • An abandoned house in Sunderland sports a sign hung by neighbors reading, "Financed by Bank of America. Thanks for the eye sore."<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    An abandoned house in Sunderland sports a sign hung by neighbors reading, "Financed by Bank of America. Thanks for the eye sore."
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • An abandoned house in Sunderland sports a sign designed and hung by neighbors.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    An abandoned house in Sunderland sports a sign designed and hung by neighbors.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • An abandoned house in Sunderland sports a sign hung by neighbors reading, "Financed by Bank of America. Thanks for the eye sore."<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • An abandoned house in Sunderland sports a sign designed and hung by neighbors.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

SUNDERLAND — On the scenic stretch of road with picturesque homes along North Main Street, one abandoned home stands out like an eyesore.

A sign on the unfinished front porch of 226 North Main St. says just that. The sign reads “Financed by Bank of America. Thanks for the eyesore.”

Since 2009, the house has sat empty as weeds have grown taller and neighbors have become impatient.

No neighbors have claimed credit for the sign, but many agree with its message.

“It’s an eyesore to the community,” said Bruce Bennett of 230 North Main St.

Bennett has owned his house next door to the troublesome property for three years. He would like to do something with the abandoned home by either buying it and selling it or get the town involved.

“The house just sits there. It’s a disgrace to the community,” Bennett said.

Robert and Barbara Fitzpatrick purchased the home for $123,440 on June 30, 1998, according to the Registry of Deeds.

Later, on July 9, 2003, Fleet Bank issued a loan for $109,000 to the Fitzpatricks to refinance the house.

In the spring of 2006, an electrical fire on the first floor spread to the attic, gutting the entire house. The house was deemed unlivable. Later, the owners tried to rebuild the house.

In November 2009, Bank of America, which took over Fleet Bank, filed a complaint to foreclose on the home. The bank filed two more foreclosure notices in 2010.

Since that time, no action has been taken. There is no foreclosure deed. The Fitzpatricks still own the home valued at $186,900 and are up to date on the tax bills.

The owners could not be reached for comment.

Several Deerfield addresses are listed as the owners’ address in various directories, but it was discovered after numerous calls and visits to the properties, the Fitzpatricks are not living in any of the homes.

Neighbors are wondering what can be done to the home.

“Some people would like to buy it, but they don’t know how to get to it,” said Jim Williams of 225 North Main St. “We don’t know what we can do about it. Everyone seems to wonder. A lot of people ask what they’ll do about it.”

Kenneth Kahn of Leverett drives by the property frequently. For 35 years, Kahn has had a law office on South Main Street.

“If it was a local bank, this would not have happened,” Kahn said.

Community Development Director M.J. Adams, at the Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, said the organization is aware of the Sunderland house and are in conversation with town officials.

“The town has to make a decision on whether they will take action,” Adams said. “They haven’t given us direction on how to proceed.”

There is little the town can do, Town Administrator Margaret Nartowicz said.

The taxes are paid and there are no health violations.

The abandoned house represents just one of countless homes that have been foreclosed on or abandoned. After the 2008 recession, empty homes left behind or taken over by large bank corporations spread throughout the country, leaving neighborhoods to deal with the boarded-up houses and sinking property values.

The sign criticizing Bank of America on the Sunderland home is also a vestige of persistent frustration with the big banks that allegedly provided housing loans to people that could not afford them.

To deal with these homes, the Franklin Regional Housing Authority in Turners Falls is working with the state Attorney General’s office to create an inventory of distressed properties. The housing authority received a $60,000 state grant last fall to complete the two-year inventory of properties in Montague, Orange and Greenfield.

The inventory, which has about 175 properties in different stages of distress, should be finished by this fall, Adams said. The goal of the inventory would be used to get the properties back into productive occupancy.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 or @RecorderKatMcK

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