Cook County Sheriff Taking Foreclosure Law Into His Own Hands
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Cook County Sheriff Taking Foreclosure Law Into His Own Hands


He's angry that foreclosure evictions have resulted in "innocent" renters being tossed on the streets-and he's doing something about it.

Last week, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart ordered his deputies to stop evicting tenants in foreclosed houses.

He's demanding that lenders and the court start implementing more fair practices when it comes to foreclosure eviction, especially when it comes to renters being evicted because of their landlord's mortgage delinquency.

"We will no longer be a party to something that's so unjust," Dart said a news conference. "We have to be sure that when we are doing this-and we are destroying some people's lives-we better be darned sure we're talking about the right people."

Cook County, which encompasses nearly all of Chicago and surrounding suburbs, has experienced a foreclosure-eviction boom in the last year

The number of 2008 foreclosure evictions will likely more than double from the amount in 2006. Dart told MSNBC that the county is on track to see 4,500 foreclosure evictions by the end of the year.

His moratorium on foreclosure evictions has caught the attention of the national media, as mortgage foreclosures have skyrocketed all around the country. Other counties are now keeping an eye on what move Cook County will make.

The Unfair Eviction Argument

Illinois law requires that renters be given 120 days notification that their residence is in foreclosure and that they'll be evicted; however Dart says the state foreclosure law has been consistently disregarded by banks and the court system.

In many cases, people who've consistently paid their landlords come home to find their belongings on the side of the street-or at least what's left of their belongings after scavengers have their way with their property.

The argument is simple: renters shouldn't suffer because their landlord failed to pay his or her mortgage.

"[Mortgage companies] don't care who's in the building," Dart said on CNN's American Morning. "They simply want their money and don't care who gets hurt along the way. On top of it all, they want taxpayers to fund their investigative work for them ... We're just not going to evict innocent tenants-it stops today."

An attorney asked a judge to hold Dart in contempt of court when his deputies refused to evict tenants after determining they weren't the owners.

The judge denied the request and Dart said that he's confident that he's on "solid legal ground."

Staunch Opposition Leads to Progress

Dart's efforts haven't been in vain.

On Oct. 14, Cook County judges began using a new document for foreclosure eviction orders that specifically names the tenants who live at the foreclosed property. It details how long they'll be allowed to live in the unit, which is the length of their lease or 120 days (whichever is shorter).

It's a victory for Dart, but his office said the fight's not over and he won't end the eviction suspension just yet.

"We're continuing to meet with the judge and state's attorneys, addressing logistical changes that will have to take place before the plan can be finalized," Dart spokesperson Steve Patterson said in a Chicago Sun-Times article. "But we're confident things are moving in that direction."

If you're facing mortgage foreclosure or having difficulty making ends meet, a bankruptcy attorney can be a professional resource who can help you explore filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy and what it may be able to do for you.

Take action and take the time to decide whether bankruptcy is the right financial solution for your circumstances:

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