Chicago sheriff halts foreclosure evictions

By Andrew Stern, Reuters

CHICAGO — 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.”

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.

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. 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, Patterson said.