Friday, June 21, 2013

Tenant Advocates Accuse Foreclosing Bankster, Law Firm Of 'Constructive Eviction' By Rendering Premises Uninhabitable To 'Persuade' Occupants To 'Voluntarily' Vacate; Family Of 8 Left Literally 'In The Dark' - Other Tenants Successfully 'Scared Out'

In Chicago, Illinois, Progress Illinois reports:

  • Eight members of the Shaw family, including a 14 month-old baby, have been living without gas or electricity for nearly a week, according to parents Shantisha and Ezekiel. Their two-bedroom garden apartment in Englewood, on Chicago’s South Side, is flooding and has mold damage. The two apartments above them are vacant, with broken and boarded-up windows.

    “We can’t live like this any more,” said Shantisha Shaw, 36, regarding the home she’s shared with her family since February 2011. A stroke survivor, Shantisha is permanently disabled and lives with her husband and six children.

    The Shaw’s landlord was foreclosed upon last year and Freedom Mortgage Corp. took over the deed for the building on December 14, as indicated by the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court.

    But neither Shantisha, nor her husband, Ezekiel Shaw, said they were notified the building was being foreclosed upon. They said they were not given a 90-day notice to vacate, nor were they provided any instructions indicating where they should send their monthly $550 rent — which includes utilities — following the foreclosure.

    The Shaws say they were not provided with any landlord or contact information pertaining to who would be responsible for maintaining the property after the foreclosure. “We’ve been left in the dark, literally,” said Ezekiel, 45. “What are we supposed to do?”

    He said he’s been given the run-around:

    In February the Shaws received an eviction notice from Pierce & Associates, a leading Chicago-based foreclosure law firm. “Demand is hereby made upon you for immediate surrender of possession of the above premises,” the February 4 letter, identifying Pierce & Associates as attorneys for Freedom Mortgage, states.

    “But we don’t have any money, I don’t know what they expect us to do,” said Shantisha. She said the building's utilities were shut off last week and “it’s been like hell”:

    It is under these conditions that the Shaw family is receiving support from the Keep Chicago Renting Coalition, which hosted a press conference and rally this week outside the family’s home at 6936 South Green St.

    According to the group, city law — the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance — requires that landlord notify renters about foreclsoure filings within seven days of the legal action. The coalition also notes that the Illinois Mortgage Foreclosure Law obligates those who take over foreclosures to notify renters of their acquisition of the property within 21 days of securing it. None of this happened in the case of the Shaw family.

    Additionally, Pierce & Associates should have given the Shaw family 90 days to vacate the premises, the coalition alleges, as mandated by the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009.

    The coalition of community, social service and labor organizations also alleges that Freedom Mortgage violated the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance by failing to maintain the property after they acquired ownership.

    “We want Freedom Mortgage to assume responsibility as new owners of the property, and we need Pierce & Associates to apply best practices regarding renters’ rights,” said Dan Kleinman, policy director for Action Now. “When a law-abiding tenant is willing and able to continue paying rent, they deserve the opportunity to keep their lease. And if the bank absolutely refuses, they need to provide a form of compensation that dignifies what the renter is going through.”

    The group has reached out to the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Kleinman said officials expressed interest in helping the coalition pursue the correct means of redress for the Shaw family. “We need to send a clear message to, not only banks, but the legal firms that represent them, that the law has to be followed and renters’ rights have to be respected,” he said.

    Kleinman accused Pierce & Associates of “constructive eviction”, which is the illegal practice of rendering a property uninhabitable in the interest of persuading a tenant to leave the premesis on their own volition.

    “The Shaws have done nothing wrong,” he said, noting the buildings’ other tenants have already been “scared out.”

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