PI Original Josh Kalven Wednesday October 8th, 2008, 3:07pm

Cook County Sheriff Puts Brakes On Evictions

Tired of seeing innocent renters caught in the middle of the foreclosure crisis, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is putting the breaks on evictions unless lenders can provide evidence that officers are being sent to toss the right people from their homes. Dart is ...

Tired of seeing innocent renters caught in the middle of the foreclosure crisis, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is putting the breaks on evictions unless lenders can provide evidence that officers are being sent to toss the right people from their homes.

Dart is specifically demanding a signed affidavit that spells out the target of each individual foreclosure proceeding. Once lenders provide that to the sheriff's office, and it's confirmed that the homeowner and resident are one in the same, the eviction can proceed.

"I'm not asking [banks] to forgive the loans," Dart said at a press conference today. "All we're asking is due diligence."

Roughly a third of the foreclosure-related evictions handled by the sheriff's office (it's on pace to carry out some 4,500 this year) involve renters rather than property owners. Under state law, renters are entitled to 120 days notice, but in aggressive foreclosure proceedings their rights are often overlooked. Too many times officers have been called to toss children and families out on the street, even though they've kept up with their rent, Dart said. Beginning tomorrow, the practice will stop.

"We're talking about people who live paycheck to paycheck," Dart said. "They're living on the edge."

The eviction moratorium won't do much to reverse the foreclosure crisis, said Geoff Smith of the Chicago-based Woodstock Institute. But he added that buying time for households in foreclosure -- of which there are more than 17,000 in Cook County so far this year -- isn't a bad idea.

"It's reached the point that there needs to be some action around the way foreclosures are structured ... to make sure that a homeowner has more time to negotiate with their lender," Smith said.

Image used under a Creative Commons license by Flickr user manos simonides.

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