Even though the law took effect six years ago, it hasnt benefited Janet Anderson. The Chicago resident is moving to a new rental unit, but its not her first choice. She scaled back her search because she knew there was an earlier foreclosure-related eviction case on her credit report.
Once the boxes are unpacked, Anderson plans to embark on the mission of getting the proceedings sealed and contacting credit bureaus to get the eviction and more important, the stigma it carries removed from her records.
I thought this was over and done with, Anderson said. Im a real decent, respectable person, but this has just been very taxing. Ive really been trampled on.
Post-foreclosure eviction actions are filed with county courts after a foreclosure case ends and the buildings ownership is transferred, typically either to a bank, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. During the housing crisis, owners frequently filed the eviction actions to empty a foreclosed building of tenants because otherwise the bank had to act as landlord.
An ordinance that took effect in Chicago last fall is expected to decrease the practice, but that offers little solace to the thousands of renters whose cases have not been sealed and are now blemishes on their credit records, often unbeknown to them, according to an analysis by Lawyers Committee for Better Housing, a Chicago advocacy group.
Cook County Judge E. Kenneth Wright Jr. acknowledged Thursday that sealing these cases which are different from evictions for cause, such as not paying rent should be automatic, but sometimes things get through the cracks for one reason or another.
In fact, in Chicago, many cases are falling through the cracks. Just last year, a year in which foreclosures dropped, more than 2,800 eviction cases were foreclosure-related, initiated by a lender, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Less than half of them were sealed from public record, according to the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing.
Not having those cases sealed is an issue that affects all neighborhoods, socioeconomic levels and segments of the rental market, from units secured with the assistance of federal housing vouchers to individually rented high-rise condominiums. Whether the eviction is on a less-than-stellar credit report or an immaculate one, it can curtail a renters options when it comes to finding new housing.
The state law, adopted in 2008 and tweaked since then, generally calls for mandatory sealing of eviction actions brought against an occupant who would have lawful possession of the premises but for the foreclosure of a mortgage on the property. Foreclosure actions against building owners, however, remain open to the public.
Missing from the statute is who bears the burden of ensuring the case is sealed and at what point that should happen.