The state is suing a company for allegedly carrying out illegal evictions. The lawsuit filed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan claims that Safeguard Properties, a company hired by mortgage lenders to maintain foreclosed homes, broke into homes that were still occupied, removed the owner’s belongings, changed the locks, and shut off the utilities.
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The suit also charges that Safeguard’s subcontractors wrongly told homeowners and renters that they had to leave their homes. “It’s an unimaginable nightmare,” Madigan said. It also would be illegal. Under Illinois law, homeowners who defaulted on their mortgage or are in foreclosure can remain in their homes until the foreclosure process is completed.
Safeguard subcontractors are supposed to secure foreclosed properties to ensure they don’t lose value during the foreclosure process-but only if the home is vacant. Madigan says those subcontractors are paid more for securing a vacant home, which creates an incentive to drive out the homeowner. Madigan says Safeguard is responsible for the damage caused by those workers, and the mortgage lenders that hire Safeguard can be held accountable as well.
“Obviously it’s a problem when you’ve essentially empowered a group of people to, in some ways, engage in a private eviction service,” Madigan said. Lawsuits have been brought against Safeguard in other states, but this is first action by a state asking for civil penalties. The suit also seeks to permanently bar Safeguard from doing business in Illinois.