Zombie homes - those homes in foreclosure abandoned by owners and not taken over by banks - are as much a problem as their movie counterparts, and they can spread the infection of deteriorating home values as much as a bite. 

New York is taking on the challenge

(Richard Slaper) property joined the inventory of some 15,000 abandoned homes trapped in a legal limbo that threatens not only those affected but entire neighborhoods.

Labeled "zombie homes," the properties are no longer under control of their owners with pending foreclosure, but not yet under control of a bank or lender.

"I didn't know when they would show up with an eviction notice," Slaper said of his decision to leave. "The house was completely abandoned. It decayed. Vagrants came in and have a couple of parties."

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said his office gets complaints, especially from firefighters who say the homes are a hazard.

"You have communities that are on the edge of the foreclosure crisis, with five or 10 abandoned houses," said Schneiderman. "That hurts the tax base, forcing neighbors to pay more taxes. It lowers the property values, too. And then the neighborhood is in trouble."

Eventually, a legal advocacy group helped Slaper modify his mortgage and he moved back in.

"My story had a happy ending," Slaper said.

But zombie homes are a problem throughout the U.S. as communities deal with the fallout from the housing crisis, with one estimate suggesting that one in five houses facing foreclosure are vacant. They are unwelcome additions to the properties that have gone unsold, unoccupied and unneeded as city populations have declined over decades of demographic and economic change.

The problem is worse in states where foreclosures take the longest. Nationally, the foreclosure process averages about 400 days. In New York, the average is more than 800 days.