Illinois AG seeks to protect residents from invasive foreclosure tactics
Last month, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against
Safeguard Properties alleging that the company illegally broke into the
houses of people behind on their mortgage payments or in foreclosure,
and then not only removed the homeowners' property but also locked them out.
While Safeguard is indeed a company hired by lenders to maintain vacant
and foreclosed homes, many homeowners are criticizing the maintenance
firm for breaking into homes and removing property when there are clear
indicators that the houses are in fact occupied - such as cars in the
driveway and dogs inside the home.
According to the Illinois Attorney General's office, more than 200
complaints have been made by people in Illinois alleging that Safeguard
has removed property from their homes. Among the complaints - and referenced
in the Attorney General lawsuit - are allegations that Safeguard's
representatives have informed homeowners that they are not permitted to
live in their homes during the
Illinois foreclosure process, which is clearly a misrepresentation of the law.
In fact, under Illinois law homeowners can remain in their homes even if
they are in foreclosure or have missed mortgage payments. The right to
stay in their homes continues until the foreclosure process is completed
and the court enters an order of possession in favor of the lender.
However, in spite of these protections, the recently filed Attorney General
lawsuit delineates a laundry list of alleged wrongful acts perpetrated
by Safeguard and its subcontractors, including:
- Illegally breaking into homes.
- Removing the personal property of the homeowners.
- Locking the owners out of the homes.
- Turning off the utilities for properties legally occupied.
- Refusing to allow owners to re-enter into their homes.
- Making deceptive and coercive representations to homeowners.
According to court documents, many of these issues could be eliminated
if Safeguard merely trained it employees and subcontractors the proper
and legal methods for determining whether homes in foreclosure are actually
vacant before breaking into them.
Sidestep foreclosure using bankruptcy
Importantly, one of the easiest ways to avoid the foreclosure process altogether
is the simply file for bankruptcy. For instance, when struggling homeowners
file for bankruptcy, all attempts by creditors to collect from the homeowners
must stop, including foreclosure actions. In addition, for those homeowners
who are behind on mortgage payments and wish to save their homes, a
Chapter 13 bankruptcy permits individuals to discharge their debts after sticking to a court-approved
monthly payment plan for three to five years - effectively becoming current
on their mortgage payments at the end of that period.
But, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may not be the ideal solution for everyone,
which is why it is always best to seek the counsel of an experienced bankruptcy
attorney if you are buried under a mountain of debt. A knowledgeable attorney
can review your debt and help determine what option may be fit your needs
given your circumstances.