Recently, the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance was modified to prevent landlords from discriminating against tenants using Section 8 or any other housing choice voucher income to pay their rent. Effective August 8, 2013, a landlord can no longer turn down a prospective tenant solely on the basis that the rent will be paid through Section 8 income. The new rule applies to all landlords — whether they are leasing a house, a condo, a townhouse, a duplex or an apartment building. The only landlords exempt from the provisions are those who are renting one or more rooms in a home that they themselves occupy. The ordinance applies everywhere in Cook County except where a local municipality has its own ordinance, in which case the local ordinance prevails. If you are not sure what the rule is in your town, contact your local village hall or city hall for more… read more →
Pursuant to a new law passed recently by the Chicago City Council, the owners of approximately 3,500 buildings in Chicago will be required to disclose how much energy they use. The goal of this new ordinance is to increase energy efficiency. The disclosures will then be compiled and scored, and the scores will be public information. If a building’s score is poor, they may have trouble finding tenants or buyers. On the other hand, if the building scores well, it could be an added marketing benefit for that building’s owners, perhaps helping to lure new tenants and buyers. The new ordinance covers buildings 50,000 square feet and up. If you have a commercial building greater than 250,000 square feet, the reporting requirement kicks in for you in June 2014. If you have a commercial building that is between 50,000 and 250,000 square feet, you must start reporting in June 2015. Residential buildings… read more →
Surprise, surprise. If you don’t show up in court to defend your foreclosure, you can’t claim the judge treated you unfairly later. A recent appellate case, Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Nichols, 2013 IL App (1st) 120350 (August 30, 3013) Cook Co., 6th Div., serves as a case in point. In Deutsche Bank, the lender served notice of foreclosure upon the defendant in April 2011. The defendant never responded, and in July 2011, the court entered the bank’s motion for default judgment. In mid-November, the defendant asked for leave to file an answer to the original complaint of foreclosure, but the court denied the defendant’s request, since the defendant had been served 7 months ago and judgment of foreclosure had already been entered. The defendant then filed a petition to substitute judges, and set it for January 26, 2012. The bank filed a motion requesting the court to approve the sale of the property,… read more →
The Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) just won a case against the City of Chicago, a case which was filed nearly two years ago, right after the Chicago Vacant Building Ordinance took effect. The FHFA argued that vacant foreclosed buildings with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages should not be subject to the Chicago Vacant Building Ordinance, claiming that the city acted outside of its jurisdiction in making laws applicable to federal agencies, and that the registration fee requir4d by the ordinance was essentially a tax on the federal government. While Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have their own standards for the maintenance of vacant buildings, those standards are by no means as stringent as Chicago’s ordinance. In Chicago alone, the FHFA owns nearly 260,000 mortgages. Granted, not all of them are vacant or foreclosed, but the decision still has ramifications for Chicago, which is trying to get derelict properties… read more →
One of the weapons in the city’s arsenal to fight foreclosure is the Vacant Building Ordinance. The ordinance aims to keep ownership accountable for the condition of any vacant buildings in the city. What’s a vacant building? Well, according to the ordinance, for a building to be vacant, it has to lack the “habitual presence of human beings who have a right to be on the premises.” In English, that means it has to be vacant of people who are actually supposed to be or allowed to be there. Another way to define vacancy is that a property is vacant if there is no legal business or legal construction activity at the premises. Residential apartment buildings are not vacant unless they are at least 90% unoccupied. For an individual residence to be considered occupied, someone must have actually lived there for at least three months out of the last nine months,… read more →
Since federal protections for tenants in foreclosed properties are expiring next year, yesterday the governor signed a law extending federal protections for renters in foreclosed buildings in Illinois, Under the law, if you are renting in a building that has been foreclosed, you are entitled to the following protections: 1) The bank (or a receiver) that owns the foreclosed building, or any other person or entity that buys the building out of foreclosure, must honor your lease until it ends. 2) The bank or owner must give you at least 90 days’ written notice before asking you to leave. 3) If the new owner intends to move in, however, he or she can terminate your lease upon 90 days’ written notice. If you are otherwise honoring your lease and the new owner tries to evict you, you can fall back on these protections and file a case against your landlord.
It looks like 2013 might finally be the year that foreclosures start to decline. According to RealtyTrac, nationwide, lenders repossessed over 30% fewer homes last month than they did a year ago, in July of 2012. They also initiated foreclosure proceedings on nearly 40% less homes than they did in July 2012. If you look at how 2013 has gone so far, we have the fewest foreclosures this year since 2007. Of course, nearly 20% of all homes in the country that have a mortgage are still underwater. In a normal housing market, that number should not be more than 5%. And it’s interesting to note, though certainly not surprising, that many of those home loans were made during the real estate boom. But overall, it’s good news for the housing market. As foreclosures decline and get off the market, with any luck housing will start to thrive again!
The second installment of Cook County real estate taxes are due tomorrow. If you haven’t paid, you better get a move on. What’s that you say? You didn’t pay because the bill is wrong? They forgot your homeowner’s exemption? They forgot your senior exemption? They forgot your senior freeze? Wow, the county really did it this time, huh? Did you say you were going to have it fixed and then pay the bill? Is that right? Wrong. You need to pay the bill now. You can go back and “fight city hall”, or in this case, Cook County, later. You MUST pay the taxes first. If not, you will be assessed late fees and penalties starting on August 2nd. You will owe the late fees and penalties regardless of how wrong your bill was. Pay your taxes, and then go back and file a certificate of error for the missing exemption(s). … read more →
A new community-based foreclosure prevention and homeowner education project is starting in Chicago. It’s called Take Root, and it’s already operational in Milwaukee, Denver, and parts of Florida. Chicago is the next step. Take Root is a Freddie Mac sponsored program. Unlike many other foreclosure prevention programs, however, Take Root teams up with a local community organization, operating on the assumption that local residents might be more comfortable talking to a local organization, rather than the bank or an arm of the government. In Chicago, Freddie mac is working with the Chicago Urban League. Take Root does not offer money to participants. Rather, it educates homeowners in preventing foreclosure, and also in purchasing a new home. The program has been successful in other cities. For example, in its very first year in Milwaukee, Take Root helped more than 2,000 families avoid foreclosure. If you need help avoiding foreclosure or advice on purchasing a… read more →
If you own a home in Cook County that you don’t live in, but are claiming a homeowner’s exemption on your real estate taxes, it’s time to stop. If you own more than one residence in Cook County and are claiming more than one homeowner’s exemption, again — it’s time to stop. In the past, many people got away with taking multiple homeowner’s exemptions. If the county ever caught you, all they did was remove the exemption going forward. They did not penalize you. But not anymore. Under a new law, the Cook County Assessor’s office will fine property owners who claim multiple exemptions. Once the county notifies you that you are claiming too many exemptions, you will have 60 days to pay back the exemptions. If you do not, a lien will be placed against the properties you own that don’t qualify for the exemption. As time goes on, the penalties… read more →