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Website tracks surplus funds from foreclosed property in Erie County

The Erie County Comptroller’s Office has launched new website to help previous property owners claim more $13 million left from foreclosure auctions.

The page, Surplus Funds, includes a searchable database of the more than 1,300 properties sold by the city,county and mortgage companies, dating back to 2009, that netted surpluses. It also provides an overview of the surplus process, necessary steps to filing a claim and downloadable legal forms to expedite the process.

The comptroller is the custodian of all unclaimed money in the county and currently manages a total of $19.1 million, including estate money and mechanic’s liens. But the excess proceeds from government tax sales account for the bulk of the money.

Buffalo’s surplus alone totals $11.6 million for more than 1,200 properties and $1.4 million for 76 sold by the county. More than $440,000 in mortgage foreclosure auctions remain for the sale of 31 propoerties. The average amount is $9,600; the highest is almost $150,000 from the city’s list.

The law doesn’t require the city or county to give surplus notifications, so foreclosed owners often don’t know they are entitled to excess proceeds. Only 11 percent, or $2.56 million, has been claimed for the sale of 153 properties out of 1,368 with surpluses since 2009 in Buffalo.

The money goes into the state’s general fund after 5 years. But after a Nov. 26 Buffalo News story revealed the staggering balance, proposed legislations to notify owners were introduced. The comptroller’s office was also flooded with calls from previous owners eager to claim their money. Unlike other unclaimed funds, leftover auction money is an involved legal process that can span months since some properties might have lienholders and judgments, and those creditors have first dibs on the surplus. A State Supreme Court judge decides the money’s rightful owner.