CLEVELAND -- U.S. Sen Sherrod Brown is urging the federal government to force banks to stop the practice of walking away from their responsibilities for properties both before and after foreclosure.

At a news conference in Cleveland today, the Ohio Democrat criticized the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for its failure to stop such practices.

Bank "walkaways" occur in two instances: when banks foreclose on properties but then refuse to buy them back at sheriff's sale; and, increasingly, before foreclosures are filed. When walkaways occur, officials say, homes often become vacant and abandoned, which leaves taxpayers on the hook for demolition and other costs.

"It's unacceptable," Brown said.

Brown said banks must do more to help homeowners stay in their homes by reducing the principal amounts of mortgages to keep payments affordable. If an agreement can't be reached, Brown said, banks should be required to file foreclosures, take the property back at sheriff's sale and pay for demolition costs.

Vacant and abandoned properties drag down the values of surrounding properties and turn neighbors into unwitting victims, he said.

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