By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
February 26, 2009
 
Q: Shouldn’t the rental market be booming now that the housing crash has forced some buyers back to renting?

Theoretically, yes, but the combination of a bad job market and a
glut of new apartment and condo developments has softened the market.
The job market is the main driver of the rental market, and it’s not
looking good. Job growth in Chicago was down 0.11 percent last year,
and it’s projected to fall another 2.45 percent in 2009, according to
Moody’s economy.com.

Q: Will landlords still raise rent at lease renewal?

Probably, though landlords eager to retain existing tenants may
propose smaller increases than usual. Diana Pittro, executive vice
president of RMK Management, which owns 20 properties in the Chicago
area including the luxury McClurg Court Center downtown, said last year
the company raised rents 6 or 7 percent at lease renewal time. This
year she expects it’ll be about half that.

Q: Are low-income tenants benefiting from the soft rental market?

Not necessarily. Foreclosures have displaced many low-income
renters and reduced the affordable housing stock. "For every tenant
that gets evicted, that unit is offline as affordable housing," said
Kathleen Clark, executive director of Lawyers Committee for Better
Housing, a Chicago advocacy group. Also, many tenants in foreclosed
properties are losing their security deposits. Thirty-two percent of
foreclosures in Chicago in 2008 were on two- to six-unit residential
buildings, according to the Woodstock Institute, a Chicago nonprofit
that promotes community economic development.

Q: Should people be wary of condo rentals?

Judy Roettig, executive director of the Chicagoland Apartment
Association, said apartment hunters should check to make sure a condo
isn’t in default or foreclosure before agreeing to rent it. The number
of condo units with foreclosure filings surged 139 percent from 2007 to
2008, and condos now make up about 19 percent of foreclosures in the
city, according to the Woodstock Institute.

Q. How do you find out if a property is in foreclosure?

Check if the landlord or property owner is a defendant in a
foreclosure case by contacting the Chancery Division of the Office of
the Clerk of Circuit Court of Cook County, at 312-603-5133. You’ll need
the property owner’s name. To get that, visit newschicago.org, a housing database run by the Center for Neighborhood Technology.

Alternatively, according to Mark Swartz, staff attorney with the
Renters in Foreclosure Intervention Project of the Lawyers’ Committee
for Better Housing: Go to the Cook County Assessors Web site at http://cookcountyassessor.com/info/startres.asp,
enter the property address, and get the Property Identification Number
(PIN). Next, go to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Web site at
ccrd.info, and search for the property by its PIN. On the search
results page, look for a document type called a lis pendens.

If there is a recent lis pendens (a notice of case pending) filed
by a bank or a mortgage company, it is likely that the building is in
foreclosure. To find out, get the court case number using the public
access terminals at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds (118 N. Clark
St.) and search for case information with the case number on the Cook
County Clerk of the Court’s Web site, cookcountyclerkofcourt.org.

Q: What rights do renters have if they’re living in a foreclosed property?

Landlords and property owners are required to notify tenants of
foreclosure action within seven days of a foreclosure filing, according
to city law. They must also notify new tenants of foreclosure action
before they sign a lease. If violated, the tenant can terminate the
lease.

In addition, renters living in a foreclosed property must get 90
days notice before an eviction action is filed against them, as long as
the tenant is current on rent, according to state law. Chicago,
meantime, will provide emergency relocation rental assistance for
income-eligible households to support up to three months of rent and
moving expenses.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are offering renters in their foreclosed
properties the option to stay if they sign new month-to-month leases at
market-rate rents.

 
 
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