Fair Housing Legal Support Center Professors Applaud New Illinois Supreme Court Rules to Protect Home Buyers, Homeowners

Professors at The John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Support Center and Clinic are applauding the Illinois Supreme Court for its actions that are designed to protect prospective home buyers from mortgage abuses and ease the burdens of those facing foreclosure.

On Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, the court issued new rules meant to correct the repeated abuses and uncertainties home buyers face when they apply for mortgages. The rules include identification of resources for government-certified counseling; free legal representation to eligible homeowners; and interpretive services and sworn assurances that all loan modification efforts have been made by the lender.

The court took 21 months to study the issues and write the new rules. John Marshall Law School alumnus Illinois Appellate Court Justice Mathias Delort (JD ’85) served on the committee. The new rules take effect March 1. Because the Circuit Court of Cook County already has a court dealing with foreclosure matters, the rules will take effect June 1.

“Through our fair housing center and clinic, our professors and law students have been dealing with mortgages scams, mortgage overcharges and other issues for more than a dozen years. The mortgage crisis of 2008 brought the issues before the general public,” said Professor Michael P. Seng, co-executive director of the center and clinic.

“We see these Supreme Court rules as a step in the right direction,” he added. “I believe the Supreme Court rules will be beneficial to not only the people we serve, but to people across the state. Requiring better notice to borrowers and putting in place more uniform procedures should help not just the home buyer but the mortgage provider as well.”

John Marshall Law School students have been volunteers since 2010 at the Circuit Court of Cook County Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program which assists homeowners as early as possible once the foreclosure process begins. As part of the program, homeowners who have received a summons to appear in court have access to housing counseling and legal assistance at no charge.

Seng said he and others have witnessed the work of Cook County’s judges. “It is a difficult situation for someone about to lose their home, and these judges have been extremely sensitive to these problems,” he said.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Jane Theis, who led the court review committee, explained that the new rules establish a uniform protocol around the state that will require lenders to provide homeowners with needed information so they understand the process and consequences of foreclosure.

It will require lenders to seek modification of loans for eligible homeowners before they complete foreclosure; improved legal notice to homeowners throughout the process and before the actual sale of a foreclosed home; and establish a mediation program to provide resources for HUD-certified consultation, free legal help and language interpretive services to those eligible and in need of them.

The Fair Housing Legal Support Center and Clinic are marking the 20th anniversary of servicing those who face housing discrimination.

The clinic filed one of the early lawsuits in Cook County against a mortgage scam operator. The elderly Chicago homeowner argued he was tricked into signing papers that he didn’t understand.  He was in the process of losing his home when the clinic went into court and the mortgage originator agreed to stop the action.