Chicago’s homeowners may have a friend in Sheriff Tom Dart. The sheriff announced Wednesday that his deputies will not be evicting anymore people from their foreclosed homes. He’s tired of throwing renters out on the street who have done nothing wrong.
“We will no longer be a party to something that’s so unjust,” a visibly angry Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said at a news conference.
“We have to be sure that when we are doing this — and we are destroying some people’s lives — we better be darned sure we’re talking about the right people,” Dart said.
It is Dart’s belief that he is the first sheriff to stop throwing people out on the streets by not participating in foreclosure evictions. Rick Sharga, senior vice president of the Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac, Inc., also believes that Chicago’s sheriff is right.
If the banks want Dart’s men to make someone homeless from now on they have to prove that the ones residing in a home are the actual owners and not a renter buying their monthly lease fee.
According to Illinois law renters have 120 days from the time a residence they are living in is foreclosure before being evicted. That law has often been ignored.
To often a renter who has been paying their rent has gone off to work in the morning only to return home finding their belongings on the curb and the locks changed. Often renters don’t even know that the home they are living in is in foreclosure.
An attorney asked a Cook County judge to hold Dart in contempt of court after refusing to allow his deputies to evict tenants unaware of their landlord’s financial problems. The judge refused. After speaking with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office Dart thinks he is standing on firm legal ground.
“My job as sheriff is to follow court orders, absolutely,” he said. “But I’m also in charge of making sure justice is being done here and it is clear that justice is not being done here.”
Foreclosures are skyrocketing in Cook County. In 2006 there were 1,771 foreclosure evictions. This year could top 4,500.
Sharga said that there are over 1 million United States homes in foreclosure.
For each of those homes are thousands of renters residing in them, paying their monthly rent and unaware that tomorrow they could be homeless.
Dart said nonpayment of rent evictions will stay go on with his department.
“You are talking about a lot of people in rental situations living paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “To think they are sitting on a pool of money for an up-front deposit, security deposit, is foolishness.”