Doing the right thing: Sheriff reverses his stance on tenant evictions in Chicago

Last week I reported that the Cook County Sheriff's Office had announced they would no longer enforce evictions of renters living in foreclosed rental properties. I chastised them for literally taking the law into their own hands and picking and choosing which laws to enforce - - which is not the job of law enforcement.

There were plenty of people who felt differently, and I don't disagree that vacant apartments aren't an ideal situation. It's also unfortunate when innocent tenants end up paying the price for the behavior of the owners of the property. Yet, my position on this issue was that it's not right for law enforcement to be selective when enforcing laws. Sure, there's always some level of judgment a police officer must exercise, and there are times when they choose to not arrest someone or not write a ticket when the law would allow them to.

This situation was different, however, in that the Sheriff was making a public statement that a particular law would not be enforced. That's not how we do things in the United States. If you don't like a law, work to get it changed. There are lots of laws that I think are stupid and wrong, but I don't just arbitrarily decide to violate them. I follow them because they're laws. And in some situations, maybe I'll become active in trying to get the laws changed.

Yesterday Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart did the right thing and announced that starting Monday, his deputies would again be enforcing foreclosure-related evictions. In announcing this change of heart, Dart said that controls were in place to prevent the wrongful eviction of innocent tenants. Banks must ensure that tenants are notified in a timely fashion that their apartment buildings are in foreclosure.

This won't necessarily stop banks from evicting those living in foreclosed buildings, but it will make tenants aware that a foreclosure is in the works and an eviction may be coming. Foreclosure-related evictions are nothing new, are perfectly legal, and are happening all over the country. I am happy to see, however, that the Cook County Sheriff will be abiding by the law, while the courts are ensuring that tenants are protected from being blindsided.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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