Foreclosure Fallout: The Evictions

July 22, 2008 8:44:53 PM PDT
It's not just homeowners in trouble. Renters are now unexpectedly being kicked out of their homes because their landlords can't keep up with the mortgage mess. The Chicago Association of Realtors says foreclosures are up more than 50 percent this year, and half them can be tracked to investors and landlords. And one tenants' rights hotline says its calls from shocked tenants are skyrocketing. Now thousands of them have been scurrying to find new places to live.

Erika Strojinc and her roommate thought they'd be living in their Roscoe Village apartment for at least another year, but instead they're packing up and searching for a new place to rent.

"Extremely stressed, it's been a really stressful two months," said Strojinc.

She recently found out that her landlord is under foreclosure, and she has to be out by August.

"Are you kidding me? Now what now what do we do?" Strojinc wondered.

The Metropolitan Tenants Organization says she's not alone.

"We were probably getting a couple calls a month, and now we are getting almost 50 calls a month," said John Bartlett, MTO.

That dramatic increase since last year is also keeping volunteers at the call center busy.

"Sheriffs are knocking on their doors and saying, 'You have got to get out.' And they don't know what their rights are," Bartlett said.

Illinois state law says tenants who are current on their rent and who have a lease have 120 days after they are served with the foreclosure notice or through the end of their lease. Whichever is shorter.

"No one is going to just come and simply put them out in the middle of the night," said Marki Lemons, Chicago Association of Realtors.

The CAR says in some cases tenants can end up getting several more months of leeway because of Illinois' lengthy foreclosure process. But most people end up losing their security deposits and still have to deal with the unexpected hassles.

"They love their place they have decorated. They have unpacked. Their children are in school in close proximity, and so now you are looking at the fact they have to uproot their children. They have to find new education systems from child," said Lemons.

The CAR says many of the foreclosures are on small complexes and duplexes in lower income neighborhoods.

"This problem, the foreclosure problem, is not going to go away. We need to start thinking outside of the box and what's normally done in order to preserve communities and keep people housed," Bartlett said.

But banks aren't in the business of being the landlords, who are also sometimes the victims themselves.

"Some owners who have bought a property as an investment, and the tenants aren't paying rent, and they are having a hard time evicting them, we have seen a number of those people go into foreclosure as well," said Justin Kling, Apartment Savvy.

Strojinc says a tenant's rights hotline representative told her she and her roommate may be some of the lucky ones.

"She says there are horror stories out there where they get a knock on the door and they have 10 days to get out," Strojinc said.

Experts say that can happen if a tenant does not receive the paperwork. But in that case, you should tell the sheriff's office that you are a renter and the process should be extended for another 120 days if you have a lease and you have been paying rent. Also, there's a new state law awaiting the governor's approval which will offer more protection to renters.

SB 2721 Offers more protection to renters:
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=51&GA=95&DocTypeId=SB&DocNum=2721&GAID=9&LegID=37191&SpecSess=&Session=

Metropolitan Tenants Organization
Hotline -773 292 4988
www.tenants-rights.org

Try to search your landlord's name in court records; You MAY find some foreclosure information
http://www.cookcountycourt.org/


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