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Today, Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for tenants’ rights, sent an open letter to all California sheriffs requesting that they impose a moratorium on foreclosure evictions unless and until lending institutions can guarantee that their foreclosures and evictions after foreclosures are legitimate.
The open letter comes in response to recent media reports that “robo-signers” working on behalf of banks have filed bogus affidavits across the nation leading to improper evictions after foreclosure. These falsified affidavits have called into question the integrity of the judicial process that leads to eviction.
In the open letter, Tenants Together reminds sheriffs that as the final link in the eviction chain, they have been responsible for carrying out illegal eviction orders, causing the massive displacement of residents—including tenants—and resulting in prolonged vacancies and neighborhood blight.
Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Thomas Dart is cited as an example for California sheriffs to follow. Two years ago, Sheriff Dart took a bold step by refusing to evict innocent tenants after foreclosure. His actions were challenged in court, but were settled with new requirements imposed on banks before they can proceed with tenant evictions. His actions also put a national spotlight on the plight of tenants in foreclosure situations at a time when few were paying attention to this issue.
This week, Sheriff Dart announced that his office will not evict families from foreclosed properties if banks cannot confirm that the foreclosures were done properly. Dart announced his new moratorium after national revelations about fraudulent foreclosure filings. The moratorium took effect this week and will stop or at least delay the eviction of hundreds of families in his county. It applies to Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and GMAC/Ally Financial.
“I can’t possibly be expected to evict people from their homes when the banks themselves can’t say for sure everything was done properly,” Dart said. “I need some kind of assurance that we aren’t evicting families based on fraudulent behavior by the banks. Until that happens, I can’t in good conscience keep carrying out evictions involving these banks.”
According to Executive Director Dean Preston, “it is time for California sheriffs to take a more proactive role to protect innocent residents from improper post-foreclosure evictions. California sheriffs should impose an immediate moratorium on post-foreclosure evictions by any lending institution about which there is evidence of large-scale fraud in affidavits leading to evictions.”