After a decade and half of enforcing the law in Chicago, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has had enough. The sheriff has refused to put another undeserving family out on the street.
"We won't be doing the banks work for them anymore" Dart wrote today in a Chicago Sun-Times Op-Ed.
As the foreclosure crisis metastasizes across the state in a wave of agony, Dart's office is on pace to conduct a record 4,500 foreclosure-related evictions this year – more than double the rate of 2006, when the housing bubble was just started to deflate, acccording to The Chicago Tribune.
But running a 10,000-inmate jail and serving on the proverbial thin blue line separating citizens from killers, hadn’t prepared Dart for the suffering of a newly homeless family.
“Perhaps no part of our job is as difficult as the work done by our eviction units,” Dart wrote. ”On any given day, our deputies could be asked to throw a family out of their home, with all of their possessions left on a curb…. Where mortgage firms see pieces of paper, my deputies see people.”
And although he could face contempt of court charges and possible jail time, Dart argues that it’s the banks that are shirking their responsibilities. That stops today.
Of the thousands of evictions enforced by Dart’s office, about one-third are of renters who were dutifully paying their rent. It's those evictions that Dart has refused to carry out. As he explained in his op-ed:
Too many times, our deputies arrive at a home to carry out a mortgage foreclosure eviction, only to find a tenant -- dutifully paying their rent each month -- who is unaware their landlord stopped using that rent money to pay the mortgage. They had no fair warning that they were about to be thrown out of their home.
That's because, in many cases, the banks have done nothing to determine, in advance, who's living in the building -- even though it's required by state law. Instead, those banks expect taxpayers to pay for that investigative work for them.
Dart lobbied to have the state Legislature pass a long requiring the banks to perform due diligence to see if foreclosed residents were children or the disabled or elderly, but banking lobbyists killing the proposal.
So now Dart has chosen to stand firm against the rising tide – an effort that banking officials argue may have unintended effort of hurting others from getting mortgages.
“It would have a significant impact because obviously lenders would be hesitant to lend if they knew that if someone defaulted they wouldn't be able to take the property back," Frank Binetti, of the Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association, told the Tribune. "It would create higher risks for lenders and they would have to price that into the loans, if they even chose to lend in Cook County.
But that argument rings hollow for Katrina McMullin, 34, a renter who first learned of her landlord’s mortgage problem when she received an eviction notice.
"How dare they take my rent and still evict me?" said McMullin told the Chicago Tribune. "It wasn't fair."