SAFEGUARDS ADDED TO EVICTION PROCESS
Cook County Judiciary introduces protections for tenants, taxpayers
Thursday, October 16, 2008 — An overhauling of Cook County’s mortgage eviction process was unveiled today, ensuring renters are properly notified their building is in foreclosure before an eviction will be conducted, according to Sheriff Thomas J. Dart.
The safeguards come as a result of several discussions between Sheriff’s Office officials and members of the Cook County Circuit Court’s Chancery Division over the last week. The court’s Chancery Division Supervisor, the Honorable Judge Dorothy Kirie Kinnaird, is ordering several steps be added to the mortgage foreclosure filing process to ensure renters of those properties are given proper notification of the court’s actions against the property owner. Those steps not only protect tenants, but also taxpayers, who will no longer foot the bill for conducting due diligence investigations for the banks.
With those safeguards now in place, Sheriff Dart announced his office will resume mortgage foreclosure evictions on Monday, Oct. 20.
The new requirements include:
- The bank holding the mortgage provide the Court a detailed description of the building and name all its occupants at the time of the initial foreclosure filing.
- Prior to the entry of an eviction order, banks must provide a date that bank representatives were last at the property for an inspection
- If the bank requests additional parties be added to the eviction order, the bank must first prove to the Court notice of the foreclosure has been given to all building tenants.
- Banks must also prove they informed tenants of the 120-day grace period, granted to them by state law, allowing them to secure new housing before moving out.
Additionally, Dart announced:
- He will hire a full-time social worker, who will work with Evictions Unit personnel to help those evicted find alternative housing and connect them with other community social services.
- Assignment of a Sheriff’s Office attorney to the Evictions Unit to help identify instances of possible mortgage fraud.
- Expansion of the Sheriff’s Financial Crimes Unit to include investigations into claims of mortgage fraud.
“These changes provide the kinds of protections to which everyone is entitled and ensures all involved in the foreclosure process will receive the proper due process rights they deserve,” Dart said. “We believe these steps, coupled with the changes in our office, will lead to a fairer and just eviction process and further protect those in need.”
Dart suspended mortgage foreclosure evictions on Oct. 9, in the wake of repeated instances of banks failing to name occupants of a home at the outset of a case. Many of those banks did not account for renters who may have moved in after the foreclosure action had started and or before the eviction order was actually entered. Many of those tenants dutifully paid rent, leading to great surprise when deputies came to their front doors with an eviction order.
“I applaud Judge Kinnaird and the Cook County Judiciary for their quick action to help us solve these monumentally unjust and heartbreaking situations,” Sheriff Dart said. “Renters have become the unwitting victims in the foreclosure crisis and these new changes will ensure their rights are given equal measure. But make no mistake – should our deputies again identify patterns of abuse happening, we will bring it to the attention of the judiciary and won’t hesitate to halt evictions if necessary.”
As evidence of the problem, Dart said that of the 61 mortgage foreclosure evictions the office would have conducted over a three-day period this past week, 24 were home to someone other than the person listed on the eviction order. That continues a pattern seen in the last year of more than 1/3 of all trips by Sheriff’s eviction teams resulting in finding no one home to verify who lived there or finding someone living there other than the mortgage holder.
Dart said his decision to suspend mortgage foreclosure evictions came after attempting to work with the banking industry over the last year, including through state Legislation. Dart hopes the interest gained by this move will lead to a re-consideration of those efforts.
Foreclosure filings have climbed in Cook County since 1999 and the number of foreclosure evictions has nearly tripled in just two years. In 1999, there were 12,935 mortgage foreclosure cases filed in Cook County. Noticeable increases came in 2006 when 18,916 were filed and last year when 32,269 were filed. This year, Sheriff Dart projects more than 43,000 to be filed.
Additionally, Sheriff Dart has said his office is on pace to conduct 4,500 mortgage foreclosure evictions this year, compared to just 1,771 conducted two years ago.
In the days following Sheriff Dart’s mortgage eviction suspension announcement, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office received nearly 2,000 emails and 700 phones calls from across the country, the overwhelming majority in support of the Sheriff’s efforts.