We are wrapping up our discussion of a case initiated by the Illinois Attorney General against a mortgage field services company. We explained in our last post that lenders and mortgage servicers engaged the company to take care of properties that were vacant following foreclosure. The company, however, sent agents to properties before the foreclosure was completed. Those agents locked residents — homeowners and renters — out, removed their belongings and shut off utilities, even though the lender did not yet have title to the property.

After receiving hundreds of complaints, the Attorney General’s office stepped in. Recently, the state and the company reached a settlement, and the affected homeowners and renters will divide up the $1 million the company agreed to pay. Closing out the matter, though, could take some time.

The challenge, according to the Attorney General’s office, lies in locating the complainants. Remember, these are people who lost their homes. The settlement covers complaints received after 2008 — in the past seven years, the qualifying homeowners may have moved several times; they may not even live in Illinois anymore.

The good news is that the state must make a good faith effort to locate the people entitled to a share of the settlement. The even better news is that the mortgage field servicer has agreed to improve its compliance program and to set up a 24-hour hotline for homeowners with questions and complaints.

The company has also agreed to require its agents to obtain a court order before removing anything that is neither hazardous nor perishable from a property that is still in foreclosure. After the deed is transferred to the bank, of course, the prohibition is lifted.

The case is yet another example of the toll the foreclosure frenzy took on homeowners. The crisis may be over, but plenty of Illinois property owners are still suffering the fallout.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Safeguard Properties’ $1 million settlement will take time to disperse,” Mary Ellen Podmolik, June 9, 2015