Judge’s General Order Protects Renters’ Rights

Daley Center Courthouse

In Illinois, if a renter is taken to eviction court after the property is in foreclosure, the law requires that the court file be sealed. In fact though, as LCBH noted in its 2013 Annual Tenants in Foreclosure Report, Chicago’s Foreclosure Crisis: Community Solutions to the Loss of Affordable Rental Housing (http://lcbh.org/reports/foreclosure/2013), only 46% of foreclosure-related eviction cases were sealed from the public record in 2013. LCBH clients who were entitled to have their records sealed were reporting problems finding new housing due to having an eviction case on their record. Credit reporting agencies and landlord-tenant “blacklists” were not necessarily interested in the outcome of a case, but focused only on the fact that an eviction case had been filed.

After the 2013 foreclosure report was published, LCBH met with Judge E. Kenneth Wright, the Presiding Judge of the First Municipal District of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and shared with Judge Wright the experiences of LCBH clients.

LCBH is pleased to report that on November 14, 2014, Judge Wright entered a General Order outlining procedures to ensure that all new post-foreclosure eviction filings in the First Municipal District of Cook County will now be identified as “foreclosure-related” and will be sealed at the beginning of the case. The order also provides that all pending post-foreclosure eviction cases are to be sealed when the court determines that that the case is post-foreclosure. The order also addressees all post-foreclosure eviction cases filed since August 26, 2008 (when the Illinois sealing protections first went into effect), directing that those cases will also be sealed by July 1, 2015.

The General Order acknowledged that public court records of eviction lawsuits filed against tenants who are in eviction court because the property is in foreclosure may “produce an unwarranted and uninvited blemish on the tenant’s and occupant’s credit records and add a stigma of a lawsuit against them.”

The General Order goes a long way towards correcting — at least in Cook County — the harm that eviction records have on renters seeking new housing. Not only will the General Order ensure that renters in foreclosure will not have an eviction create a barrier to renting new housing, but thousands of eviction filings that should have been sealed will be back-sealed by the Clerk of Court.

What are the next step? Advising renters impacted by the General Order about how to clean up their credit reports. These newly-sealed court records will be unable to be verified by credit reporting agencies, and, once challenged, should be removed from an individual’s credit report.