The Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court is joining forces with local and state agencies to form a special task force to properly distribute the county’s $16 million in foreclosure surplus claims.
The force, officially called the “Mortgage Foreclosure Surplus Fund Task Force,” will attempt to contact the 1,944 individuals – all of whom it has the names of – through a variety of means, including community outreach events and public kiosks with a searchable database of the names. Cook County had already set up an Internet search engine two years ago, when the surplus fund totaled $19 million.
“This money is not ours,” said Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios. “It belongs to the taxpayers.”
The surpluses are a result of Cook County foreclosure law. When a home is re-sold at a court-ordered auction for a greater amount than the initial mortgage, any amount beyond $100 must be deposited into an interest-bearing account for the original owner of the property. Claims, which go back to the 1990s, average $2,000 a person, but one claim is $450,000.
The difficulty in finding the individuals, officials said, is twofold: one, past owners of foreclosed properties are unlikely to follow the property’s lifespan, and may not be aware of the foreclosure surplus law; and two, they may simply be skittish about contacting officials about properties they had been unable to maintain.
Cook County contacted one homeowner who was owed a $200,000 surplus. The homeowner never returned the call.