According to Dart, the mortgage companies are
supposed to identify the occupants of a building before they seek to
have them evicted. This, however, is not being done in Cook
County. Dart wants the legislature to do something to protect
the many innocent people that are unaware of their landlord's
financial problems... at least, unaware until a deputy knocks on
their door to evict them. (see
Illinois Sheriff Scolds Banks for Evictions of 'Innocent' Renters)
"These mortgage companies ... don't care who's in the
building," Dart said Wednesday. "They simply want their money and
don't care who gets hurt along the way.
"On top of it all, they want taxpayers to fund their
investigative work for them. We're not going to do their jobs for
them anymore. We're just not going to evict innocent tenants. It
The Illinois Bankers Association, not surprisingly, is opposed
to any legislation that would place a further duty on the lender to
identify those who are tenants in buildings that are the subject of
their foreclosures. They simply want Dart to enforce the
court's eviction orders.
The Illinois Bankers Association said that Dart "was elected to
uphold the law and to fulfill the legal duties of his office,
which include serving eviction notices."
The association said Dart could be found in contempt of court
for ignoring court eviction orders.
"The reality is that by ignoring the law and his legal
responsibilities, he is carrying out 'vigilantism' at the highest
level of an elected official," it said. "The Illinois banking
industry is working hard to help troubled homeowners in many ways,
but Sheriff Dart's declaration of 'martial law' should not be
This may be an area where legal rights intersect with moral
wrongs. Tenants have rights. In order to evict a tenant in
Illinois, a landlord must follow proper procedure - including
notifying the tenant.
"The complete process of evicting a tenant in Illinois involves
five distinct steps although the occurrence or execution of all
the five steps may not be necessary for the tenant to lose her
right to possession: the first essential step is that the tenant
must be delinquent in her rent, second, the landlord must
notify the tenant, in writing, that the rent must be paid
within no less than five days, third, the specified time period
mentioned in the notice must pass without tender of payment by the
tenant, fourth, the landlord must sue for possession or maintain
ejectment and obtain a judgment for possession and fifth, a writ
of possession issued pursuant to the judgment for possession."
Robinson v. Chicago Hous. Auth., 54 F.3d 316 (7th Cir.
But, in these cases in Cook county, the tenant isn't being
evicted by the landlord because they didn't pay the rent. They are
being evicted because the landlord has failed to make their mortgage
payments. The rights of the lender in this instance are superior to
those of the owner and his tenants. Still, this doesn't change the
fact that the tenant is an innocent third party. The rights of
the tenant should not be cast aside in such a cavalier manner.
Shouldn't they at least be afforded notice of the foreclosure
action, and the likelihood of eviction?
This seems to be all that Dart is looking for. Make the
lenders do their due diligence and notify the tenants before they
seek to have them evicted. The landlord would have to do the
same if he were seeking to evict them. The tenants should not lose
all of their rights merely because the eviction is a result of a
foreclosure, rather than an action for forcible entry and detainer.
Dart has taken a moral stand on behalf of the innocent tenants.
As I mentioned, he is not the first sheriff to refuse to throw
people out of their homes. In the early 1980's, Sheriff
refused to execute foreclosure orders evicting Youngstown, Ohio,
residents from their homes. During that time, Youngstown was
experiencing a high rate of unemployment due to steel mill
Out of a sense of compassion, or maybe because it made for good
theater, Traficant refused to evict these workingmen who were
guilty of nothing but losing their jobs. Traficant spent time in
jail for his refusal to serve the eviction notices, and he became
a folk hero. Some people thought he could walk on water.
Welcome to Youngstown...)
Traficant was later charged with racketeering and accepting
bribes. He became the only person to ever win a RICO case
representing himself. He went on to be elected to Congress. He
served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1985 to
2002 when he was expelled after a bribery conviction that earned him
an 8-year prison sentence.
Perhaps Traficant is not a man that Dart would want to be
compared to, but clearly this shows that following your conscience
and placing a high value on standing up for a moral right can be
good for your political future. Arguably, moral activism launched
Traficant's career... and moral decay ended it.
In Dart's case, I think he is making a brave and righteous
decision. Clearly the lenders have a right to foreclose, but the
system needs to be changed and the rights of the tenants need to be