Cook County Crusades to Distribute Foreclosure Funds

Cook County is taking extra steps to distribute foreclosure surplus funds to their rightful owner.

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.

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