Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Cook County Sheriff

I'm sure a lot of people have heard about this, the Cook County Sheriff who has refused to evict tenants from foreclosed properties, when those tenants had no notice of the foreclosure or the eviction order. Foreclosing lenders often don't bother to tell the tenants that a foreclosure proceeding has begun, don't bother to find out who lives at the property and ask the Sheriff to evict the owner from the property, without ever finding out that tenants live there.

I've written on this subject before here. I wondered why tenants seemed to believe that if their first notice of the foreclosure was the Sheriff's eviction notice. But it soon became clear that what happens is this: the mortgage servicer hires a Foreclosures-R-Us service to process the foreclosure. In California, that takes a minimum of four months. Then to save time and effort, the realtor hired to clear the building doesn't bother to find out whether tenants live at the property and proceeds to evict the owner from the property. In the process the realtor would have to file documents indicating that the owner had been served with the court papers. Unless the owner is hanging out 'round the foreclosed house, the proper service isn't happening. The F-R-Us service then proceeds to file an unlawful detainer action against the owner, gets a judgment, and has the Sheriff evict the people (yes, tenants are people) living at the property.

The Sheriff, who often has close, close ties to the real estate industry, turns a blind eye to the Order calling for the eviction of the owner and evicts everyone living at the property. In California what this really means is that tenants get the Sheriff's Notice, consult with a lawyer, and decide that it's easier to just move than to fight the eviction. Doing that would require spending money on a lawyer and moving quickly to stop the eviction. And all for 60-days' notice?

What really needs to happen here is that there should be some perjury prosecutions. The mortgage servicer has to allege that the landlord was served. In most cases the landlord wouldn't be served personally because he's disappeared. So there are other service possibilities, which would insure that the tenants received notice and could call up and say, "excuse me, but we're renting here." The F-R-Us service would then have to start over with the service of a 60-days' notice to the tenants. But that's clearly not happening. Oh, the District Attorney gets campaign contributions from the real estate industry too.

Rule: Read anything that comes to the house and if the Foreclosures-R-Us service doesn't know tenants live at the property, call them immediately and let them know. If they proceed with the eviction of the landlord, maybe, someday, a District Attorney will take action. In our dreams.

Update (10/14/08): Accredited Home Lenders filed suit against the Cook County Sheriff last week to force the Sheriff to carry out an eviction order. Accredited then withdrew the suit--I wonder if Accredited realized that they might have to show that the tenant(s) had received the legally required notice.

No comments: