Foreclosures court busy due to mortgage crisis

February 19, 2009 4:47:08 PM PST
Foreclosure court in Cook County has been a very busy place during the mortgage crisis. Dozens of cases are heard every day as homeowners fight to keep their homes.

Despite President Obama's plans to fix the mortgage crisis - or maybe because of them - foreclosure court in just the last few days has gotten a whole lot busier.

And that's on top of how rumors of a state moratorium on foreclosures have caused banks to scramble to get into court.

Mushrooming paper attests to the 2,800 new foreclosures that have been started in the Cook County Chancery Court in the last 10 days, double the pace of January.

In fact, in 2006 there were 18,916 foreclosures in Cook County. In 2007, that number nearly doubled to 32,269, and went up another third in 2008, when there were 43,726 foreclosures, a 131% increase in three years.

"It is really a mess. It really is. And what can we do? We'll do the best we can do," said Delores Belton.

Belton, 57, wants a judge to slow down the foreclosure of her home. The certified nursing assistant and legal clerk was unemployed for a year but now has found a job. Her South Side home is worth $230,000, she has a mortgage for $275,000 made by what she says was a predatory banker. Under President Obama's plan, she might be eligible for refinancing that could drop her monthly payment nearly $500.

"That would be excellent, that would be affordable for me?I wouldn't have to pay almost $2,000 a month," said Belton.

The White House will release details on how that plan will work in two weeks.

"We have many of the servicers, most of them in fact, who have already announced they're going to stop foreclosures until that March 4th date, so we believe we can get help into the hands of millions of families that need it very, very quickly," said Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

But will it be quick enough for Belton? She says her banker won't work with her in a meaningful way.

"I believe that the investors and bankers just want their money and if they can get their money they want you out of the home and that makes it worse," said Belton.

It's a story of desperation echoed by so many in a line at foreclosure court, the first step on the road to foreclosure in and around Chicago.

"The important thing is the people who are coming in who are suffering, that they are treated fairly, as customers, and that justice is properly vetted for both sides," said Dorothy Brown, Cook County Circuit Court clerk.

"If no one would be sympathetic to try to help us, then, I don't know," said Belton.

ABC7 called Belton's bank and were told that it cannot discuss clients' cases.

The Obama administration says its plans will keep 4 to 5 million people out of foreclosure and a speaker at the Mortgage Bankers Association meeting on Thursday in Miami called that hype.