Data released by the Ohio Supreme Court shows the number of new foreclosure cases filed in county courts last year declined for the second year in a row.
Common pleas courts in Ohio reported 71,556 new foreclosure filings in 2011, a 16 percent decrease over 2010 and the second time the numbers have gone down since 1995.
Numbers reflect both residential and commercial properties.
Eighty-six of Ohio's 88 counties saw foreclosure decreases.
New Summit County Foreclosure Filings Statistics
Click here to see a county by county report from the Ohio Supreme Court.
Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, continued to lead the state in foreclosures with 11,544, representing a 10 percent drop.
Franklin County, which includes Columbus, had the next highest number of filings with 7,834, a 19 percent drop. Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, had the third-highest number of filings with 5,834, an 11 percent drop.
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Foreclosures dropped in Ohio during the month of January-- the opposite of the national trend.
RealtyTrac CEO Brandon Moore tells the Columbus Dispatch that filings could increase now that the nation's largest banks have agreed to new foreclosure guidelines.
Close to 8,200 foreclosure filings were reported in the state last month, down 5 percent from December.
The nation numbers tell a different story as foreclosures were up by 3 percent.
January foreclosures were up more than 30 percent in several states including Indiana and New Jersey.
Five states accounted for more than half of all foreclosure activity:
On the web: www.dispatch.com
The problem with foreclosures is moving far beyond the tragedy of homeowners finding themselves looking for a place to live.
Critics say it's made worse by banks who won't honor their committment to maintain properties they take over, dropping property values for remaining neighborhood homeowners.
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown has been a sharp critic of what he calls a "free pass" for banks and mortgage companies to just walk away from foreclosed homes, just as some homeowners walk away from mortgage terms they can't meet now that housing values have dropped.
"If they're (banks) going to push them into foreclosures, they can't walkaway from these homes," said Brown.
"Bank Walkaways" With U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown by Amani Abraham
Brown's office says the problem has been particularly acute in Cleveland, but Akron also scores high -- ranked seventh overall in "bank walkaways." A study by the General Accounting Office says as many as 34,000 homes counted on that list from 2008 through 2010.
If banks choose to work with homeowners and follow through with their responsibilities, Brown says real progress can be made including helping families who are in jeopardy of losing their homes.
"Work with homeowners to pay a little less and maybe to reduce the principal a little bit, so they can continue to make some payments and stay in the home,"said Brown.
Brown says he's not interested in punishing the banks, but he is interested in people keeping their homes.
"They (banks) own the home. They are responsible for local building codes and all that, to keep that home presentable. We hope to resell without vandalism."
Brown has been critical of a year-end decision by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency allowing banks to continue the practice if they are in the process of foreclosing on properties, even if the action leaves the house vacant and without regular maintenance, with former homeowners not even aware they were still on the hook for payments and taxes.
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