(Adds sheriff meeting judge)
By Andrew Stern
CHICAGO Oct 9 The sheriff of the third-most
populous U.S. county halted evictions on foreclosed properties
on Thursday, saying innocent tenants were being put on the
street. But bankers said he was breaking the law.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said he understood he was
flouting the law in refusing to have deputies carry out the
rising number of eviction requests, but said mortgage holders
must be accountable.
"These mortgage companies only see pieces of paper, not
people, and don't care who's in the building," Dart said.
"This is at the heart of so many of the problems we have
nationwide now, which is the banks' lack of due diligence, this
very cavalier way of dealing with properties and subprime
loans," he said. "Doing very little research, saying 'It's just
paper, let's just move it, move it, move it,' and that's what
has got us here."
Dart, whose county includes the city of Chicago and
encompasses 5.4 million people, said he believed he was the
first sheriff in a major metropolitan area to take such a step.
Chicago is the hometown of Democratic presidential candidate
The Illinois Bankers Association trade group said Dart was
ignoring the law and engaging in "vigilantism."
Dart met with Judge Dorothy Kinnaird, who presides over
evictions in Cook County, and presented his case, sheriff's
spokesman Steve Patterson said.
"We offered a handful of proposals to put the necessary
safeguards in place to protect not only ourselves but the
tenants," Patterson said.
Dart wants banks that foreclose on properties to knock on
doors and identify and notify tenants of the eviction notice
before sheriff's deputies carry out the grim task.
Kinnaird said she would give the issue a thorough review,
The moratorium on evictions applied to any home, apartment
building or condominium facing mortgage foreclosure. Other
evictions due to such issues as failing to pay rent would
Illinois law was recently revised to require the owner of
the property and mortgage holder to notify whoever lives there
120 days before an eviction is carried out.
"In announcing his plan, Dart acknowledged he could be
found in contempt of court," the Illinois Bankers Association
said in a statement, adding the sheriff's decision "should not
"We have to have the ability to take over collateral upon
default, and if we don't have that assurance, or we think
evictions won't be made ... we simply won't make the loan," the
group's president, Linda Koch, said of the moratorium.
There were more than 500 evictions for foreclosure
scheduled over the next six weeks in Cook County and the
sheriff's office was on pace to conduct 4,500 evictions this
Mortgage foreclosure cases filed in Cook County are likely
to exceed 43,000 this year, compared with some 18,000 in 2006,
the sheriff said.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)