No one ever thinks their real estate tax bill is fair when it comes out. But to determine whether or not you might successfully appeal your taxes in Cook County, look at these things: 1) Check the description of your property. If the county thinks your house is bigger than it is, you have a good shot at appeal. Make sure you can provide blueprints or a survey or an appraisal that shows the size of your home. Of course, if the county thinks your home is smaller than it is, it’s probably assessed less than it should be anyway. 2) If your home has been damaged — water, fire, any kind of significant damage — that was not accounted for when it was assessed, you can appeal based on that. 3) If your home is in an exceptionally undesirable location (and no, not being able to stand your neighbors… read more →
If you were thrown out of your house pending a foreclosure case, this might interest you: The Illinois Attorney General recently filed a suit against Safeguard Properties, a large national company that maintains foreclosed properties for lenders. According to the Illinois Attorney General’s office, more than 200 homeowners have complained that Safeguard Properties wrongfully removed their personal property from their homes, even though the homes had not yet been foreclosed, and even had their utilities shut off. Moreover, Safeguard Properties supposedly told homeowners they could not continue to live in their homes pending foreclosure. Under state law, homeowners are allowed to stay in their homes until the foreclosure process is complete. The suit also alleges that Safeguard told tenants of properties in foreclosure that they must also vacate. Again, this is a violation of state law, which allows tenants to remain in possession until their lease ends, even if the lease ends after… read more →
After numerous complaints by homeowner’s struggling to be compensated or have their loans modified pursuant to the $25 million national mortgage foreclosure settlement, the settlement’s monitoring committee finally announced some changes last week. It turns out there are a whopping 304 standards that the banks are supposed to be following, but compliance has been slim Pursuant to the changes announced last week, all five banks affected by the settlement (Bank of American, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally/GMAC), will give homeowners 60 days to submit additional loan modification documents before the home goes into foreclosure. Generally, the banks have also stated they will provide better oversight of their employees.Additionally, Bank of America and Wells Fargo have agreed to the following additional policies: 1) They will have to provide specific information about missing documentation to homeowners. For example, instead of saying they never received “X document”, or “X document”… read more →
If you were planning on applying to the state’s Hardest Hit Program for mortgage assistance, you’d better hurry up. The deadline is today. When the program started in 2011, eligible homeowners could qualify for up to $25,000 in assistance, although that number was increased to $35,000 earlier this year. Nearly 15,000 people have applied, and almost 60% of those who applied received some assistance. Nearly $122 million were paid out. The good news is that most homeowners who qualified and received assistance continued to own their homes 6 months later. Based on the information we have now, it appears the program was successful. For more information and to see if you might qualify, click here. If you do apply, act quick. The deadline is today, September 30, 2013.
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.