The group closest to the bottom on the list of politicians’ list of priorities in dealing with the foreclosure crisis have been renters who have made their lease payments on time but face eviction anyway. When a landlord loses a home, renters are typically given no notice for fear that they will stop paying every month. Thus, the first time they may learn that the property they are leasing is in foreclosure is when the county sheriff posts a three-day eviction notice on the front door.
Recently, the Cook County sheriff in Illinois had enough of this situation and refused to serve eviction orders on buildings occupied by tenants. Without giving renters enough notice to find alternate housing arrangements, it becomes far more likely they will have nowhere to go and no place to store their belongings, due to no fault of theirs. Even worse, if the landlord disappears right after the foreclosure, tenants may lose advance rent payments or a security deposit.
Cook County’s decision to halt evictions in such cases is one of the more promising developments of the foreclosure crisis. Banks, up to this point, had simply used the courts and local sheriffs to evict tenants, regardless of how much notice they had to move out before being forced out. In fact, new court documents to be used in the Illinois county specifically give those renting foreclosed homes up to 120 days after being given notice of an impending eviction to move out of the house.
Of course, this does not help address the problem and help landlords stop foreclosure on investment properties, but it does give tenants a new defense against a quick eviction. One of the most distressing situations to be in is, after having made rent payments on time, to find out that one’s home is being foreclosed on and the first indication of this is the eviction order. With only a few days to get out, there is little renters can do even to take time off of work to move personal items out in time
Although it is likely that evictions of tenants will go back to a common practice of Cook County sheriffs deputies in the near future, the most important aspect of the halting of evictions has been the exposure in the media. With all the talk of bailing out Wall Street firms, banks, and homeowners, those renting a place that falls into foreclosure have slipped through the cracks, left to fend for themselves with none of the resources even their landlords can utilize to save a home.