Cook Co. sheriff won't evict in foreclosures

October 8, 2008 3:20:02 PM PDT
Mortgage foreclosure hearings have been put on hold in Cook County for the time being.The county sheriff is finding many of those being evicted are paying their rent each month and only learn their landlord is having financial problems as they are being kicked out.

This is an extreme move by a local official. Under Illnois law, a renter should have 120 days notice if their building, home or condo is foreclosed. But Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said that's not what he found, and he wants banks to take more responsibility.

Seven families live in one Albany Park building. Most have lived there for years paying rent. In May, they were informed the building was foreclosed and they had to leave.

"I don't think this is fair because we don't know what happened. We were paying rent every month and the man, you know, we don't know," said tenant Maria Cruz.

The Albany Park Neighborhood Council stepped in to get the tenants help. The council says the landlord took the rent money as well as money from seven different lenders and left the country, aving the tenants with no idea they would be evicted.

"The tenants had no idea what the landlord did. He fled town before they even knew that he took the money and left," said Diane Limas, Albany Park Neighborhood Council.

"My job as sheriff is not just to follow orders. It is to make sure that the justice is being done for the people in Cook County and it is not being done right now," Dart said.

Dart says what happened in Albany Park is happening all over the county. After seeing an increase in tenants shocked by foreclosures and evictions, he's refusing to serve evictions without proof from the bank that the current resident had proper notice.

"We shouldn't be going about destroying people's lives by winging it," Dart said.

The sheriff's department serves 400-500 foreclosure evictions every month. Each time they don't know if the place will be vacant, find an angry owner or if they'll find an unsuspecting tenant whose life will be turned upside down.

"You have law abiding people who are playing by the rules. They're playing by the rules and then they show up and their stuff is out in the street. That's just wrong," Dart said.

At Wednesday's eviction on a West Side condo, deputies found a sick, elderly woman at home. They called off the eviction to have social services step in. Starting on Thursday, the sheriff's eviction unit expects to have more information before evicting foreclosure cases.

Dart said he wants the banks to file affidavits with the court that the people living at the residence have been notified of the eviction and have had their 120 days to prepare.

The Illinois Bankers Association released a statement saying the institution strongly opposes Dart's plans to stop serving eviction notices in Cook County.

"He is carrying out 'vigilantism' at the highest level of an elected official. There are numerous laws in place to protect homeowners in foreclosure actions, as well as renters whose landlords are in foreclosure actions," the IBA statement says.


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