UPDATED: October 19, 2010, 5:55 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced Tuesday that he is suspending evictions stemming from foreclosures filed by banks that admitted to “questionable and illegal practices.”
Effective Monday of next week, Dart has placed a moratorium on foreclosures for mortgages held by three banks – Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, and GMAC/Ally Financial. He has given the banks five days to respond to a letter sent to them last week.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports
The banks have all admitted they are uncertain about the legitimacy of some of their foreclosures, according to Dart’s office. Among the claims are that some employees approved foreclosures without reading documents that may have contained errors. These employees have earned the nickname “robo-signers.”
Several major lenders have suspended foreclosures. Bank of America had been one of them, but the bank said Monday that it plans to resume seizing more than 100,000 homes in 23 states next week. It said it has a legal right to foreclose despite accusations that documents used in the process were flawed.
Bank of America Corp. said it’s confident of its foreclosure decisions. The bank is still delaying foreclosures in the 27 states that don’t require a judge’s approval. It said it’s still reviewing its cases in those states.
If all the paperwork is in order, Dart said he knows it’s a necessary action to serve an eviction notice as a result of foreclosure proceedings. But as CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, if the banks’ paperwork isn’t up to snuff, the sheriff isn’t going to play ball with three of the nation’s largest banks anymore, starting on Monday.
Dart said he could not evict people from their homes based on the foreclosures when so much doubt remains.
“What I’m telling them today is that for about the thousand or fifteen-hundred evictions that I, today, could put out on the street to foreclose on those homes, I need them to tell me that everything was done properly,” Dart said. “I need some kind of assurance that we aren’t evicting families based on fraudulent behavior by the banks. Until that happens, I can’t in good conscience keep carrying out evictions involving these banks.”
Dart said he will require proof that an eviction notice is in order in the form of a signed affidavit from representatives at The Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase and GMAC/Ally Financial.
He also asked the banks to provide the same information for awaiting eviction orders, since legal proceedings take about two years from when a foreclosure is filed to when it results in an eviction order from the sheriff’s office.
And Dart said he has reason to do it.
“During the course of the last year, out of about 350 different cases we reviewed, we found 17 of them had all of the documents properly in there,” Dart said.
In response to Dart’s announcement, J.P. Morgan Chase spokesman Tom Kelly said, “We continue to research the (foreclosure) documents and will re file them as appropriate.” Representatives from Bank of America and GMAC/Ally Financial were not immediately available for comment.
Dart is a rumored candidate for mayor in 2011. He’s been down this road before, suspending evictions two years ago until a court ordered him to resume.
Experts say there’s a flipside to foreclosure evictions. Foreclosures, when legally done, are necessary to clean out bad loans and thus, excess supply. They say that’s good for the housing market in the long-run.
Dart is up for reelection on Nov. 2. But he said that this proposed moratorium isn’t political, it’s personal.
“We are not taking away someone’s bike,” he said. “This is their house.”
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