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Every three years properties in Chicago are re-assessed by the Cook County Assessor in the triennial reassessment. 2015 is that year and the notices are beginning to hit mailboxes. And, many property owners are seeing significant increases in their property tax assessment - and can expect a corresponding increase in their property tax bill in 2016. But, all is not lost. You have the right to appeal. Appeals can be made to the Assessor's office within a certain timeframe (usually 30-45 days) following the assessment. Thereafter, an appeal may be taken to the Cook County Board of Review (don't worry if you missed the Assessor's deadline, you can start the appeal process at the Board of Review).  I encourage everyone to appeal their assessment. You don't need an attorney to do this although it wouldn't hurt either. For more information, contact us at iMove Chicago.

 
After years of harming homeowners with its foreclosure shenanigans, JP Mortgage Chase may finally pay for its crimes. Sources say the maligned bank reached a preliminary $13 billion mortgage settlement with the U.S. government this week, although the settlement will likely cost the bank roughly $9 billion after taxes are deducted. 

Major Bank Reaches Deal With Foreclosure Watchdogs

According to reports, $4 billion of the settlement will go directly towards consumers who were hurt by the bank’s fraudulent foreclosure actions. The other $7 billion would take the form of punitive fines, which, in theory, would help dissuade JP Morgan Chase and other major banks from taking similar actions in the future.

The settlement is a direct result of an effort by the Obama Administration to investigate the sale of mortgage-backed securities, the collapse of which was one of the primary causes of the financial crisis. These securities were created when banks took home loans and sold them to third parties. Thousands upon thousands of loans were shuffled through this process. 

The tactic, however, depended on rising home values, but when home values started to plummet, huge numbers of home loans went into default, and the mortgage-backed securities collapsed. Unfortunately for consumers, when the defaults started to occur, banks often couldn’t find their original promissory notes, and began engaging in widespread fraud. 

JP Morgan Chase Punished for Foreclosure Fraud

Among the fraudulent activities that led government officials to file their claim against JP Morgan Chase were forging foreclosure documents, illegally pushing consumers out of their homes before a foreclosure sale was authorized, and countless violations of state procedural laws. 

The extreme nature and extent of the crimes against homeowners in foreclosure led to the massive settlement. The chief executive of JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, visited Washington this week to plead for mercy, but it appears the government was able to secure a historically large settlement. 

Of course, while the settlement is quite large, it still won’t sink JP Morgan Chase. In fact, some observers speculate that the settlement won’t change the bank’s actions at all. If you are being bullied by an aggressive home loan lender, contact an Illinois foreclosure attorney today to make sure it isn’t engaging in illegal foreclosure activities. 

Rusty Payton is a a real estate broker with iMove Chicago and partner with the Illinois law firm of PaytonDann.  He has over 24 years experience in real estate and bankruptcy matters.   He may be contacted at 321-702-1000 or at payton@paytondann.com.
 
"A Huge Billion Dollar Slumlord." That is how one tenant describes her landlord - one of a new crop of investment firms buying and renting residential homes by the tens of thousands across the United States. This article from the Huufington Post is eye opening. The lesson here is to know your landlord. These days it is well worth your time to do a little due dilligence of your own to learn who is the atual owner of the property you wish to rent.  Are they local?  What is their reputation for maintenance and repair? Do they have local offices and management and maintenance personel? These are important questions that if you take the time to ask can make your rental home an enjoyable experience.
 
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While it may appear that the housing market is rebounding, there remains a vast pool of homes that are "underwater" - their owners obligated to pay substantially more to first, second and even third mortgage lenders. Short sales have been one solution.  In a short sale, the owner agrees to sell her property for a price which is less than the debt owed and asked her lender(s) to agree to release their lien voluntarily.  But that solution has its limitations.  First, the owner has to be able and willing to sell.  What if the owner wants to stay?  Second, the short sale process is grueling in terms of the documentation that lenders require and ultimately the owner is at the whim of the lender(s) to approve.

So, if not a short sale then what?  A chapter 13 bankruptcy may be the best alternative. In a chapter 13, an underwater homeowner may be able to "strip off" (void) all junior liens which are below the present value of the property and use a chapter 13 plan to repay past due installments over the life of a 3-5 year bankruptcy plan.  Additionally, chapter 13 offers even greater possibilities for those owning mixed-use property (2-4 flats), investment property, vacation homes and any loan where the security given to the lender includes something in addition to the owner's principal residence.  In those situations, chapter 13 not only allows the owner to "strip off" junior liens but to also "strip down" the first mortgage to the present value of the property.  For example, assume an owner has a 2-flat with a first mortgage of $250,000 and a second mortgage of $50,000 and further assume that the property has a present value of $175,000.  The owner could propose a plan the voids entirely the second mortgage and pays the first mortgage back based upon a principal amount of $175,000.  The owner has, in effect, shed $75,000 of mortgage debt while getting to keep their home.

"Strip offs" and "strip downs" are important tools to consider when working with a homeowner with an underwater mortgage. Clients seeking to pursue such a strategy should consult with an attorney experience in bankruptcy and real estate.  Short sales have their place, but there are alternatives for those who seek them out.

Rusty Payton is a a real estate broker and partner with the Illinois law firm of PaytonDann.  He has over 24 years experience in real estate and bankruptcy matters.  He may be contacted at 321-702-1000 or at payton@paytondann.com.

 
A landmark settlement that promised to provide relief for millions of homeowners in foreclosure has fallen short of its intended goals, according to a report from the Chicago Tribune. So in response to consumer complaints about continued issues with mortgage servicers, the terms of the settlement will soon be strengthened. 

The $25 billion settlement, which was announced in February 2012, was supposed to compensate homeowners who were the victims of foreclosure fraud. As part of the settlement, the nation’s five largest servicers also agreed to clean up their acts. 

But attorneys general in several states, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, believe that the mortgage servicers aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. 

According to Madigan, the settlement was “supposed to eliminate headaches for borrowers, but homeowners continue to report problems.” Alarmingly, in Illinois over the past few months, 60 percent of the foreclosure cases reviewed by Madigan’s office included major errors. 

In response to the new trend of fraudulent activities among mortgage servicers, officials have announced changes to the settlement, although only Bank of America and Wells Fargo have agreed to the changes thus far.

The new rules require banks to give homeowners 60 days to submit extra documents that would help them modify their loan before the banks foreclose. Previously, homeowners only had 30 days to do this. In addition, the banks have agreed to monitor their employees more closely, and give homeowners more specific tips on how to avoid foreclosure.

If you believe your mortgage servicer isn’t communicating properly with you about your home loan, learn more about your legal rights by calling an Illinois foreclosure attorney today. 
 
 
 
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Pets can be a landlord’s worst nightmare. Dogs and cats are often noisy and dirty, and they can wreak havoc on newly finished floors. So landlords have the right to keep animals out of their units.  But this right is not absolute. If a disabled tenant needs the aid of a service animal, landlords must allow the pet inside the building, even if they have a strict no-pet policy. 

Service Animals: The Landlord’s Duties
The Fair Housing Act, a federal law that governs rental activity in every state, requires landlords to offer “reasonable accommodations” to disabled tenants. So if a landlord selects a tenant who is one of more than 10,000 Americans currently using a service animal, a few key rules apply:

1.       Tenants who require the aid of an animal due to a “sensory, mental, or physical condition that substantially limits a major life activity” must be allowed to live with a service animal.
2.       Service animals do not need visible identification or documentation, but landlords can ask for proof that the animal is necessary. A letter from any health care professional will usually suffice. 
3.      Landlords cannot force disabled tenants to pay a pet deposit, but the tenant is still liable for any damage caused by the animal.

Building owners may also require that tenants keep their animals are well-behaved, but that’s a typical landlord right that extends to human tenants, too. And since most service animals are highly trained, it’s fairly rare for them to cause serious problems for landlords. Other tenants, however, are another matter.

Other Tenants’ Right to Void Their Lease
While the Fair Housing Act limits landlords’ right to keep service animals out of their buildings, other tenants do not face the same restrictions.
If a tenant moves into a building because of its no-pet policy, and a service animal moves in next door, the tenant has a right to challenge the validity of the lease. Of course, objecting to a service animal won’t win anyone a Humanitarian of the Year award, but the absence of pets can be an important factor for many tenants, especially those who suffer from allergies.

So while landlords must allow service animals to assist disabled tenants, they may also have to void the leases of tenants upset by their new neighbors.

 


 
Chicago Bed Bug Ordinance Triggers New Duties for Condos
Most condo associations keep a vigilant watch for bed bugs in their buildings, but a new Chicago ordinance looks to ensure that no pests fall through the cracks. To combat a wave of bed bug terror, the city of Chicago recently passed a law forcing condos to promptly resolve bed bug infestations, or face a $1,000 daily fine. The ordinance, which boldly labels bed bugs a “public nuisance,” also requires each condo association to draft a plan of attack for potential insect invasions.

New Bed Bug Regulations for Condo Associations
In order to comply with the new rules, nestled in Section 7-28-840 of the Chicago Municipal Code, condo associations must:
·         Prepare a pest treatment plan. Every condo must draft a plan for the “detection, inspection, and treatment” of bed bugs by September 5, 2013. While this sounds awfully vague, the city health department has promised to post a sample plan on its website soon.
·         Publish the plan of attack. After creating a comprehensive pest control plan, each building must also post its strategy on the city health department’s website. 
·         Report any bed bug incidents. If a single creepy crawler appears in the building, condos must immediately report the problem to the department of health.
·         Treat the infestation. If a bed bug enters the premises, condos have a duty to hire a licensed pest control service to “totally eliminate” the problem, even if this requires multiple treatments. The most surprising requirement is the pest treatment plan, which must incorporate the “best practices” currently used in the war against bed bugs. And condo associations face a potential fine if they fail to create a suitable pest control strategy. 

Condos Must Report and Record Every Bed Bug Incident
Alas, the duties don’t stop after treatment. After each bed bug incident, condo associations must also keep a written record of the treatment. These reports must remain accessible for city health inspectors to review. And if any resident of a condo reports a bed bug problem, city officials reserve the right to inspect the interior and exterior of the entire building to check for signs of the hungry critters.  The ordinance certainly creates a new burden for condo associations, but if the rules help thwart the bed bug epidemic, residents will be able to sleep more soundly at night.
 
Chicago Bed Bug Ordinance Places Extra Burden on Landlords
Bed bugs, as far as we know, aren’t interested in politics, but they certainly created a stir this spring in the stately halls of Chicago’s City Council.  After months of negotiations, the council has passed an ordinance labeling bed bugs a “public nuisance,” which spells doom for the nightmarish critters, but could also take a bite out of landlords’ wallets.
Under the new rules, Chicago landlords who fail to promptly treat and report bed bug infestations face a $1,000 fine for every day of noncompliance.
Landlords Must Treat and Report Every Bed Bug Incident
The ordinance creates several new responsibilities for local building owners. Under Section 4-4-332 of the Chicago Municipal Code, landlords must now:
·         Completely eliminate the pests. Upon notification of a bed bug issue, landlords must immediately hire a licensed pest control service to “totally eliminate” the bugs, even if this requires multiple treatments.
·         Report all treatment. Landlords must keep a written report of all bed bug troubles, and store receipts for every pest treatment. These records may be viewed at any time by city health officials.
·         Check neighboring units. Building owners also have a duty to inspect all units next to the infested location to make sure the bugs haven’t made travel plans. The most important language of the ordinance is the new duty to “totally eliminate” any bed bug problem. This means landlords cannot rest until every last critter is killed. 

Tenants Also Have a Duty to Cooperate and Report
While landlords certainly hold more responsibility than tenants, the new ordinance also enlists tenants in the fight against the tiny merchants of sleeplessness.
The rules require tenants to notify landlords of the presence of bed bugs, cooperate with treatment efforts, and dispose of personal property that has not been treated by a pest control service.
But the primary burden clearly rests on landlords, who must eliminate bed bug colonies as fast as possible or face thousands of dollars in fines. 
 
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Have a craving?  We all do from time to time.  Who hasn't made a late night, beer infused, trip to a bright White Castle to down some hot "sliders"? Well, now you can satisfy that craving just about anywhere. White Castle has jumped on the food truck bandwagon and announced it will soon launch "slider" food trucks in select markets.
We can't wait.  Hopefully, the Pepto truck is close behind.