Saturday, August 06, 2011

Banksters Continue Disregard For Tenants' Rights In F'closed Homes; Illegal Constructive Evictions Believed To Be On Upswing As 'Boot' Filings Decline

In Chicago, Illinois, Community Media Workshop reports:
  • Banks routinely violate state and federal laws protecting tenants in rental buildings in foreclosure, particularly in a “foreclosure belt” stretching across the South and West Sides, according to a new report.

  • Lenders and their agents “willfully ignore” laws that protect tenants in foreclosures(1) and have “institutionalized in their practices the wholesale violation of tenants’ [legal] rights,” according to a report from the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing.

  • Banks “generally ignorefederal law requiring them to honor existing leases after foreclosure on a rental building, according to the report.

  • Banks seek to vacate properties they’ve acquired – through illegal lockouts and through “misleading, harassing and threatening communicationswith tenants – in order to evade legal responsibilities under the city’s tenant landlord ordinance, the report suggests.


  • Eviction filings have fallen steadily since 2007 – and one reason may be that “a substantial number of evictions are carried out extra-judicially,” according to the report. Tenants who refer to existing leases “are routinely ignored,” and when LCBH lawyers alert banks and their attorneys to illegal practices they too “are often ignored,” according to the report.


  • Illegal constructive evictions that lead to building vacancies and boardups have a clear solution: enforce the already existing laws that protect tenants living in foreclosed buildings,” according to the report. It calls for “adding teeth” to existing statutes.

For more, see Foreclosure and renters: banks break the law.

See Banks Avoid Foreclosure Laws, Uproot Renters: A Call for Enforcement of Tenant Protections for the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing report.

Thanks to Deontos for the heads-up.

Editor's Note: Illinois case law suggests that representing poor or otherwise 'cash-lacking' tenants in unlawful eviction cases in the City of Chacago might be somewhat more lucrative than many may think (and, consequently, may pose an unexpected minefield for unscrupulous landlords, banksters, and their henchmen who may find themselves footing the victimized tenant's legal bill in a successful defense of an illegal eviction). See Pitts v. Holt, 304 Ill. App.3d 871, 710 NE 2d 155 (Ill. App. 1st Dist., 6th Div. 1999),(2) a case which, coincidentally, was litigated by the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing.

(1) The Federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 provides important protections for tenants in foreclosed properties, including the right to receive 90 days' notice before being required to leave the property and, in many cases, the right to remain for the length of the tenant's existing lease term.

For more on the rights of tenants in homes/apartments in foreclosure, see National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty: Staying Home: The Rights of Renters Living in Foreclosed Properties.

(2) The Illinois appeals court made these observations regarding the imposition of a tenant's legal fees upon an unscrupulous landlord (and the calculation thereof) in a successful defense in an illegal eviction case (bold text is my emphasis):

  • In this case, defendant's attorneys itemized 69.40 hours of work performed to defend their client against an unlawful eviction, ultimately securing the maximum statutory damages provided by the Ordinance.

    At the hearing, the court indicated that it had no objection to the amount of work claimed done on behalf of the defendant, with the exception of the fact that she used two attorneys to represent her at the trial when one would have been sufficient. The second attorney's trial work accounted for $3,787.50 of the total $9,368.75 sought by plaintiff.

    The court specifically stated that the rates charged by the defendant's attorneys were low, and further stated that, given their experience, higher rates could have been charged if the defendant's attorneys had been in private practice.


  • Defendant suggests that the trial court discounted the defendant's fee award based upon the fact that her attorneys were employed by a not-for-profit legal services agency. Comments made by the court support this inference. If this is in fact the basis of the court's low award, we simply reject it, pointing out the lack of Illinois precedent supporting consideration of such a factor.

    Indeed, at least one Illinois decision has rejected the notion that legal services attorneys should be compensated at lower-than-market rates. See Merchandise National Bank v. Scanlon
    , 86 Ill.App.3d 719, 728-29, 41 Ill.Dec. 826, 408 N.E.2d 248 (1980).

    As the federal courts have recognized, discounting the legal fees awarded to legal aid attorneys would serve only to chill the impulse of attorneys to pursue and continue careers in legal service work since the receipt of such fees promotes the health and continued existence of their employing organizations. See Torres v. Sachs
    , 538 F.2d 10, 13 (2d Cir., 1976); Rodriguez v. Taylor, 569 F.2d 1231, 1245 (3d Cir., 1977).

    We agree with the observation made in Fairley v. Patterson
    , 493 F.2d 598 (5th Cir., 1974), where the court wrote:

    "`Whether or not [the client] agreed to pay a fee and in what amount is not decisive. * * * The criterion for the court is not what the parties agreed but what is reasonable.' [Citation] Whether the attorney charges a fee or has an agreement that the organization that employs him will receive any awarded attorneys' fees are not bases on which to deny or limit attorneys' fees or expenses." Fairley
    , 493 F.2d at 607, quoting Clark v. American Marine Corp., 320 F.Supp. 709, 711 (E.D.La., 1970), aff'd. 437 F.2d 959 (5th Cir., 1971).

    In addition, we note that assessing reasonable fees has the potential added benefit of deterring wrongdoing in the first place. Rodriguez
    , 569 F.2d at 1245.