In the spirit of maverick lawmen like Wyatt Earp, Chicago’s Sheriff has said “no” to enforcing eviction orders against renters when the landlord’s property is foreclosed.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart held a press conference yesterday to announce that he has ordered his deputies to halt evictions in Chicago and some outlying areas, because the Sheriff’s Department will no longer “be a party to destroying people’s lives.”
Evictions are already a “gut-wrenching” experience for his deputies, Dart explained, but when tenants have been paying rent and are unaware that the property is subject to foreclosure, evicting them rises to the level of “injustice”.
Sheriff Dart cited hundreds of cases where tenants would leave for work in the morning with no knowledge that their possessions were going to be hauled to the curb during the day. By the time they came home, most of their belongings had been pilfered and they had nowhere to take their family for the night.
He described the typical renter his department evicts as someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, and does not have the money to cover another months’ rent and security deposit with no notice.
Illinois is one of many states that does require that the foreclosing banks give at least 120 days notice to the renters before they can evict. However, Dart explained that those rules are being “largely ignored.”
He cites that of the 4,500 evictions in Cook County this year alone, nearly one-third of the residents were not the parties named in the eviction papers. He claims that banks, upon realizing this legal mistake, simply amend their eviction documents to name the existing residents. As a result, a large number of tenants had no knowledge they were in jeopardy of losing their homes. Dart is digging in his heels.
Evictions will be carried out if the bank presents a court affidavit showing the home is owner-occupied, or that the existing tenant has received 120 days notice as required by law, leaving in question how long this moratorium will last. Cook County courts could issue contempt citations to the Sheriff to enforce evictions orders, or the legislature could impose new rules in light of the foreclosure crisis.
The Sheriff has been cited for contempt, but has signaled that his legal counsel is confident he is within the bounds of the law. Dart admits that his job is to enforce the current law, but adds that he is also “in charge of making sure justice is being served.”
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