After Deal, Cook County Police Resume Evictions

Cook County Sheriff's deputies in Chicago go door-to-door to houses that are in foreclosure. i i

Cook County Sheriff's deputies in Chicago go door-to-door to find people who are in houses that are in foreclosure. Cheryl Corley/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Cheryl Corley/NPR
Cook County Sheriff's deputies in Chicago go door-to-door to houses that are in foreclosure.

Cook County Sheriff's deputies in Chicago go door-to-door to find people who are in houses that are in foreclosure.

Cheryl Corley/NPR

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart recently stopped all foreclosure-related evictions in the Chicago area. He decided unsuspecting renters deserved a chance to plead their case.

But with battering rams at the ready, the sheriff's teams were back at it Monday, knocking on doors. After negotiations with court officials, it was decided that enough safeguards are in place for the evictions to resume, according to Dart.

Under the county's latest procedures, members of an evictions team explain to residents what they know about each case, and that it is a house that has been foreclosed on. The deputies give out phone numbers and other contact information. The deputies may or may not return to the house, depending on what happens in court, Dart says.

The number of foreclosure cases is on a rapid climb in Cook County, nearly doubling in the first half of 2008 and expected to reach 42,000 by year-end.

A Family Caught Unexpectedly

On Monday morning, Dart joined the evictions teams to make sure that his deputies were following the county's latest procedures.

One of their first calls was on Chicago's South Side. Cousins Ruthie and Shadae Jones were awakened by the deputies' pounding, and they answered the door with their two small children.

"I mean, it was embarrassing," Shadae Jones says, adding, "But the good thing about [it] is that after we go downtown and talk to the circuit clerk and they will give us months to stay here and get everything together."

The Jones family is a prime example of the people the sheriff says have been caught up unexpectedly in the foreclosure crisis.

They are renters and have lived in the house for about two years. The family paid its rent regularly until the landlord stopped answering the phone, according to Ruthie Jones.

"We never really, you know, got a chance to meet the actual lady who owns the house," she says. "I'm glad that people are investigating that type of stuff so people like us, who are really trying to do something with our lives, won't be out on the streets."

Banks Assume More Responsibility

This would have been a different scene until just recently.

After meeting with a neighborhood group upset over the fate of renters in foreclosure situations, the county's eviction process began to change. And Dart says under new rules he worked out with the courts, banks and lenders must now assume more responsibility.

"Forty-five to 30 days prior to us coming out here, the bank would have had to come out to this location with an agent of theirs — an agent of a law firm — knocked on the door and gotten the names of the people in here and then taken a photograph of the place," Dart says.

Dart says that information is submitted to the courts in an affidavit showing that the eviction order includes the names of everyone in the house.

The Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association agrees the changes are a step in the right direction. Even so, board member Richard Gottlieb says some banks might challenge the provision requiring them to inspect the property by a certain date.

"The bank may not ever go out and actually inspect the property," Gottlieb says. "That could have been done initially by a mortgage broker or some other entity. The bank could have acquired the loan through some process. To the extent that the court is requiring that an inspection take place prior to foreclosure, that would be contrary to law."

Even so, Gottlieb says he expects most lenders to begin doing the inspections as a matter of course. He and Dart expect the revised eviction process to work more efficiently.

But Dart says that if innocent people are still caught up in the foreclosure mess, he'll stop foreclosure-related evictions once again.

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