Blog: Foreclosure

Welcome to LCBH’s Blog. Our blog delivers original articles written by our staff, interns and volunteers. We strive to provide informative stories about the work we do on behalf of Chicago renters and the issues renters face.

Working Together with Betty

Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) helps preserve the vitality and affordability of Chicago’s neighborhoods. The attorneys and staff at LCBH work with community partners to ensure those affected by unfair evictions, deplorable living conditions or foreclosure have viable and affordable housing options currently and in the future. The LCBH Supportive Services team is available for the most vulnerable LCBH clients and their families to avoid homelessness and achieve stable housing. This includes assessment of needs, assistance in locating alternative affordable housing, applying for emergency funding, screening for public benefits, and providing links to essential services. The multi-disciplinary and holistic approach that LCBH provides has proven an effective way to assist clients moving towards a goal of attaining more stable housing beyond the immediate crisis of eviction.

Foreclosure: a Renter’s Perspective

Following is a recent letter from a client describing her experiences living in a recently foreclosed apartment building and dealing with the new bank owners. Her words resonate in a way that ours cannot. We wanted to share her letter with you, as your support is what makes our interventions in these situations possible. Thank you!

I, and most of the tenants in my bank-owned building, would have given up our rights out of frustration and fear if it were not for the services of Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing.

We had known for some time that our building was in the process of foreclosure. But we were not worried because we knew the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO) required the bank to either renew our leases or pay a $10,600 relocation fee. However, our collective peace of mind began to crumble as we came to understand that the bank was neither equipped nor inclined to perform the basic duties of a landlord. Soon after, our anxiety rose even further, as the bank engaged in scare-tactics designed to persuade us to move out on our own accord (therefore circumventing the requirements of the KCRO).

Thus far, the bank has used two tactics. The first is a passive approach: they benignly neglect the responsibilities of building management. The second is more aggressive, entailing periodic eviction threats. The only reason these tactics are not working is because we are represented by Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing.

Foreclosure: a Renter’s Perspective

Following is a recent letter from a client describing her experiences living in a recently foreclosed apartment building and dealing with the new bank owners. Her words resonate in a way that ours cannot. We wanted to share her letter with you, as your support is what makes our interventions in these situations possible. Thank you!

I, and most of the tenants in my bank-owned building, would have given up our rights out of frustration and fear if it were not for the services of Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing.

We had known for some time that our building was in the process of foreclosure. But we were not worried because we knew the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO) required the bank to either renew our leases or pay a $10,600 relocation fee. However, our collective peace of mind began to crumble as we came to understand that the bank was neither equipped nor inclined to perform the basic duties of a landlord. Soon after, our anxiety rose even further, as the bank engaged in scare-tactics designed to persuade us to move out on our own accord (therefore circumventing the requirements of the KCRO).

Thus far, the bank has used two tactics. The first is a passive approach: they benignly neglect the responsibilities of building management. The second is more aggressive, entailing periodic eviction threats. The only reason these tactics are not working is because we are represented by Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing.

Chicago City Council in Chambers

Two years ago the Chicago City Council passed the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosed Rental Property Ordinance, commonly known as the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO). The KCRO applies to Chicago renters from the time of a completed foreclosure sale until the building is sold to a third-party purchaser. The ordinance provides that successors-in-interest (usually banks) to foreclosed properties must do one of two things: either offer to renew or extend leases to qualified tenants in foreclosed properties or, if the owner should choose to vacate the property, provide $10,600 in relocation assistance per household. The strong policy behind the KCRO is to allow renters, even those without a written lease, to remain in their home as long as they comply with their rental agreements. It also provides a financial incentive for banks to collect rent, or sell occupied Real Estate Owned properties (REOs), keeping them in productive use.

LCBH Helps Renter Enforce Her Legal Rights Under the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance

Bianca Brown recently contacted the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline. An LCBH attorney counseled Ms. Brown about her apartment building, which was in foreclosure and now owned by the bank. The attorney explained that under Illinois law there are rights protecting renters in foreclosed buildings, as well as a Chicago ordinance which provides additional protections to renters, the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosed Rental Property Ordinance, commonly known as the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO).

LCBH Helps Renter Enforce Her Legal Rights Under the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance

Bianca Brown recently contacted the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline. An LCBH attorney counseled Ms. Brown about her apartment building, which was in foreclosure and now owned by the bank. The attorney explained that under Illinois law there are rights protecting renters in foreclosed buildings, as well as a Chicago ordinance which provides additional protections to renters, the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosed Rental Property Ordinance, commonly known as the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO).

Daley Center Plaza

LCBH recently closed its help desk and opened a new resource table.

The new resource table is located on the 14th floor of the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington St., which is right outside of the eviction courtrooms. The resource table is stocked with copies of our informational Tenants in Foreclosure Brochures (both the Chicago & statewide versions) in English and Spanish.

Renters can still get one-on-one counseling via our free Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline: in Chicago (312) 784-3507, Cook County (855) 207-8347.

The former Tenants in Foreclosure Help Desk was initially launched in 2011 to provide renters and attorneys in eviction court with legal information regarding renters’ rights during foreclosure. Help desk staff spotted a lot of illegal notices and other common violations, but more importantly, they helped keep a lot of renters from being unfairly evicted from their homes.

Since then, a number of new renter protections have come to pass and a lot of people have been educated on the laws. We found that we were helping more people with basic court information rather than foreclosure related issues, and at the same time, the demand for assistance through our help lines was steadily increasing.

So to better assist renters, we felt the time had come to close the help desk and focus those resources on our help lines and helping more renters, more quickly.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly and LCBH staff attorney Aileen Flanagan

On Saturday March 14, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing attended Second District Congresswoman Robin Kelly’s Second Annual Housing Expo. During the event, LCBH provided extended foreclosure counseling to renters living in foreclosed properties and renters visited our table with questions that we were able to address.

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.

Chicago neighborhood

Leo Jones heard about LCBH’s Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline and called looking for help. Mr. Jones believed he was within his rights to live out the term of his lease and that he was being misled by the new property manager at his building. Mr. Jones’ landlord had recently lost the apartment building due to foreclosure.

Mr. Jones called LCBH’s foreclosure helpline about his situation and LCBH helped him understand applicable laws. Mr. Jones then filed complaints with both the Illinois Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Complaints and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation alleging that his current lease should be honored, and that the new property owner and property management company were not complying with the law. The Attorney General’s office investigated the property management company and continued to watch the company’s conduct. After several months of Mr. Jones’ efforts to have the new property owner acknowledge his tenancy, and follow the terms of his existing lease, the new owner filed an eviction case against Mr. Jones.

LCBH represented Mr. Jones in the eviction court case. The court analyzed the federal Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure Act (PTFA) and Illinois law, and ruled that Mr. Jones had a valid lease. Mr. Jones would be able to remain in his home!