MELISSA BLOCK, host:
You're listening to All Things Considered from NPR News. Recently in the Chicago area, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart stopped all evictions related to foreclosures. He said unsuspecting renters deserved the chance to plead their case. But today, the sheriff's teams were back at it. The sheriff has negotiated with court officials and now he says enough safeguards are in place for those evictions to resume. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.
CHERYL CORLEY: Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart joined an evictions team this morning making sure that his deputies were following some of the county's latest procedures, especially when they found renters in foreclosed homes.
Sheriff TOM DART (Cook County): We explain to them what we know about the case and that this is a house that has been foreclosed on.
CORLEY: And the deputies give out phone numbers and other contact information.
Sheriff DART: And then we'll may or may not come back here depending on what happens in the court.
CORLEY: The number of foreclosure cases is on a rapid climb here - nearly doubling the first half of the year and expected to reach 42,000 by the end of the year. This morning one of the first eviction calls for Cook County sheriff's deputies was on Chicago South Side.
Unidentified Man #1: Sheriff's department.
Unidentified Man #2: Open the door.
Ms. SHADAE JONES (Foreclosed Home Renter): Good morning.
Unidentified Man #1: How are you?
CORLEY: Cousins Ruthie and Shadae Jones were awakened by the deputy's pounding, and answered the door with their two small children.
Ms. SHADAE JONES: It was embarrassing.
Ms. RUTHIE JONES (Foreclosed Home Renter): Yeah. It was really embarrassing.
Ms. SHADAE JONES: It was embarrassing. 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.
CORLEY: The Jones family is nearly a perfect example of the people the sheriff says are 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.
Ms. RUTHIE JONES: The landlord stopped answering the phone and we never really got the chance to meet the actual lady who owned the house. So I'm glad that people are actually here to investigate 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.
CORLEY: 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.
Sheriff DART: 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.
CORLEY: Dart says that information would 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, the association's Richard Gottlieb says some banks might challenge the provision requiring them to inspect the property by a certain date.
Mr. RICHARD GOTTLIEB (Board Member, Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association): The bank may not ever go out and actually inspect the property. 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, I think that would be contrary to law.
CORLEY: However, Gottlieb says he expects most lenders would begin doing the inspections as a matter of course. And he and Sheriff Dart expect the eviction process to work more efficiently. Dart says if innocent people though are still caught up in the foreclosure mess, he'll stop foreclosure-related evictions once again. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.
BLOCK: This is All Things Considered from NPR News.
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