Faster Foreclosure of Abandoned Homes in Illinois

A new Illinois law will fast-track the foreclosure of abandoned homes.

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In certain states, a foreclosure can take a very long time to be completed -- around two years on average in Illinois. However, Illinois recently streamlined the process for abandoned properties. Read on to learn more about how a foreclosure can be expedited for abandoned homes in Illinois and why this could have a beneficial effect for lenders, borrowers, and neighborhoods alike.

(To learn about other Illinois laws affecting foreclosure, visit our Illinois Foreclosure Law Center.)

Fast-Tracking Foreclosures of Abandoned Properties

Illinois foreclosures take an exceptionally long time, about 720 days on average, to complete. However, on February 8, 2013, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law Senate Bill 16, which allows a lender to file a court motion seeking expedited foreclosure proceedings on properties that are:

  • single-family homes and multi-family buildings with six or fewer units, and
  • not legally occupied.

(Oddly enough, the bill took approximately two years to pass, which is roughly the same amount of time that it takes for an Illinois foreclosure takes to be completed.)

Consequently, beginning on June 1, 2013, lenders will be able to foreclose on an abandoned property in as little as 90 to 180 days.

Facing foreclosure? The Foreclosure Survival Guide walks you through the options for saving your home or walking away with money in your pocket.

How Foreclosures Are Fast-Tracked

Under the voluntary fast-track process, the lender files a motion at the time the foreclosure complaint is filed (or any time thereafter) that demonstrates that the property is abandoned and asking to expedite the process.

What Constitutes Abandoned Property?

Abandoned property under the new law means property that is:

  • not occupied by a borrower or other lawful occupant as a principal residence, or
  • contains an incomplete structure (if the real estate is zoned for residential development) that is empty or otherwise uninhabited and in need of maintenance, repair, or securing.

In addition, two or more of the following conditions must exist in order for it to be considered abandoned:

  • the borrower (or borrower’s representative) indicates in writing an intent to abandon the property
  • there are multiple broken or boarded-up windows
  • there are broken, missing, or continuously unlocked doors on the property
  • the property has been stripped of copper or other materials, or interior fixtures to the property have been removed
  • gas, electrical, or water services to the entire property have been turned off
  • construction was initiated on the property, but stopped (and no construction has taken place for at least six months) and the property is unsuitable for occupancy
  • law enforcement officials have received at least one report of trespassing or vandalism or other illegal acts being committed at the property in the last six months
  • a court, municipality, or county authority had declared the property unfit for occupancy and ordered to remain vacant and unoccupied
  • the local police, fire, or code enforcement authority has requested that the property be secured or winterized as a matter of public safety
  • the property is open and unprotected and in reasonable danger of significant damage due to exposure to the elements, vandalism, or freezing, or
  • there is other evidence indicating a clear intent to abandon the property.

The Judge Determines if the Property Is Abandoned

The court will hold a hearing to determine if the property is abandoned within 15 days after the motion is filed, but no earlier than before the period to answer the foreclosure complaint has expired. Notice of the motion and hearing (including the time, date, and place of the hearing) must be sent to the last known address of the borrower and posted on the property.

If the judge finds that the property is abandoned residential property, the case shall immediately proceed to trial.

However, the court may not grant a motion for an expedited foreclosure if the borrower, an unknown owner, or a lawful occupant appears in the action before or at the hearing and objects to a finding of abandonment. Likewise, the court is required to vacate a judgment if, prior to confirmation of the sale, a borrower or lawful occupant appears in the action and demonstrates that the property is not abandoned.

Fast-Tracking Foreclosures of Abandoned Properties Benefits Neighborhoods

When properties are abandoned, a lengthy foreclosure process ultimately harms the neighborhood. Vacant homes quickly start to show obvious signs of neglect. The lawn doesn’t get cut, litter begins to pile up, and the home often falls into disrepair. Abandoned homes are also susceptible to vandalism, squatters, and crime. This drags down the value of the property itself, as well as of the entire neighborhood.

Speeding up the foreclosure process for abandoned properties:

  • allows the lenders to obtain title to the properties faster
  • preserves more of the home’s value, and
  • gets the property on the market quicker so a new owner can purchase the property.

Fast-Tracked Foreclosures Benefit Homeowners

Homeowners won't become the victim of a zombie foreclosure if the lender completes the process promptly. (To learn more about zombie foreclosures and the harmful effects they can have on homeowners, see Zombie Foreclosures.

Additional Benefits Provided by Senate Bill 16

In addition, Senate Bill 16 directs funds to two beneficial state programs -- the Foreclosure Prevention Program and the Abandoned Property Municipality Relief Program.

Under these programs, foreclosure filing fees paid by banks to initiate foreclosures will be used to:

  • provide foreclosure prevention efforts (such as housing counseling and foreclosure prevention outreach programs), and
  • assist with costs associated with abandoned properties (such as weed cutting, graffiti cleanup, etc.).

The fee ranges from $50 to $500 depending on the number of foreclosures the bank filed in the preceding year.

For More Information

To learn about the specific foreclosure laws in Illinois, see Summary of Illinois' Foreclosure Laws.

If you are an Illinois homeowner at risk of foreclosure or struggling with your mortgage payments, visit www.keepyourhomeillinois.org, call toll-free 1-855-KEEP-411 (1-855-533-7411), or visit one of the housing counseling agencies throughout the state.

by: , Contributing Editor

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