Some Chicagoans are haunted by “Zombie properties” and “zombie foreclosures”
The City of Chicago has fined people who are no longer property owners tens of thousands of dollars.
The I-Team previously reported in July on two women who were fined thousands of dollars for properties they no longer owned.
The I-Team has discovered more “zombie” victims. One woman is haunted by a property she sold nearly 60 years ago, while another has her wages garnished.
“I just feel like I had nowhere to turn, like I’m stuck with it for life, until I’m long gone from here those properties will haunt my children, haunt my family,” Corita Sergeant said.
Sergeant amassed an empire of rental properties until the 2008 financial crisis forced her to sell some of them. Others, including one in Chicago’s Burnside neighborhood, were lost to foreclosure. She thought the house, now demolished, was in her past, but she was fined for weeds.
“It can range anywhere starting a $600 go anywhere to like $1,200,” she explained.
Sergeant claimed that the city garnished her wages to pay fines.
“It’s been years of this and I just don’t know what to do at this point,” Sergeant said.
According to Sergeant and her attorney, Mario Reed, the city informed her that she owes several thousand dollars in fines for the Burnside property, including approximately $1,900 for demolition and fines for two other properties that Reed claims she no longer owns.
“Debts in excess of $50,000 are possible. And she has zombie foreclosures “Reed stated.
A “zombie foreclosure,” occurs when a home is foreclosed and the former owner moves out, but the new owner, lender, or bank fails to record the deed in its name. The previous owner is now liable for nuisance fines, demolition costs, water bills, and other expenses.
There are also “zombie properties,” which are homes that have been sold but the new owner has not recorded the deed in their name.
“The city of Chicago should forgive the debts,” Reed said.
Reed has received calls about zombie properties and foreclosures since our story, and he now has nearly 50 potential clients in similar situations, including Wendie Rose.
Rose was served with a weed-related fine notice in 2022, despite the fact that the property was sold in 1959.
Rose owed the city $650 for overgrown weeds at this vacant lot in Marquette Park, all because a deed was not properly recorded nearly 60 years ago. Her father’s estate was still known by that name.
“Extremely stressful, because I never knew what the city of Chicago would do next,” Rose said. She was able to resolve her problem with Reed’s assistance, but some of his other clients face a more difficult battle.
“The city simply said, “We don’t care.” You are, after all, the person who owns the property in our eyes “Tanisha Rayson-Henry made the statement.
On the city’s Far South Side, she is fighting a “zombie foreclosure” She was issued a weed violation for a property she claims she no longer owns after surrendering it to lenders who, she claims, failed to record the deed.
“That is stressful, both financially and emotionally and mentally. Because you want to finish, “Rayson-Henry stated
The Department of Finance in Chicago, which collects fines, stated that it can only bill people who are listed as owners on record. “A property may continue to be registered to an owner and accrue billing debt,” they stated.
According to the city, this can happen if the owner has not followed up with a bank or new buyer to ensure the deed has been properly transferred and recorded.
Many of the banks and lenders that did not record deeds years ago are no longer in business or have been bought out by other lenders.
“The party to blame is currently our legislature, and it stems from the fact that there is no requirement to record a deed in the state of Illinois. So, if you buy a house, you do not need to record the deed with the Cook County Clerk’s Office “Reed stated.
The I-Team reached out to the Illinois Speaker of the House’s spokesperson to inquire about possible solutions, but has yet to hear back.
Even if the consumers eventually get the deeds into the bank’s names, the city says they may still be liable for fines incurred before the deed was transferred.
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