New Address

Starting Monday, July 11, 2016, my new address will be:

120 N. La Salle St.

20th Floor

Chicago, IL 60602

All other contact information will remain the same.

Circuit Court of Cook County Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program

The Circuit Court of Cook County has established the Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program for homeowners interested in negotiating a modification of their mortgage payment after a foreclosure lawsuit has been initiated.

To be eligible for the Mediation Program, the property in foreclosure must be either a single family home or a building with four or fewer units. The homeowner must be living in the property. There are no income caps for eligibility. Involvement in the Mediation Program is not automatic. The owner must submit a motion to the court requesting that the case be sent to mediation. Appointment to mediation is at the judge’s discretion.

Once the foreclosure case is assigned to the Mediation Program, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation (CVLS) will be appointed to represent the homeowner for the purposes of the mediation. The Center for Conflict Resolution will send a notice to the parties with the date, time and location of the first mediation session.

There are two avenues for mediation: (1) retention of the property by the homeowner or (2) relinquishment of the property by the homeowner.

There are several retention options: (1) HAMP loan modification–where lenders receive incentives from the government to make loan modifications, (2) non-HAMP loan modification, (3) forbearance, (4) repayment or (5) Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

There are also several relinquishment options: (1) deed in lieu of foreclosure, (2) consent judgment, (3) short sale, and (4) relocation assistance.

Each of these options should be discussed with the CVLS attorney prior to the first mediation session to determine which one best suits the homeowner.

The homeowner must appear at the mediation session. The homeowner must also bring to the mediation session all financial documents submitted to the lender and any other financial documents which may influence the lender’s decision to settle the case. The mediation session usually lasts about ninety minutes and most of the time a second mediation session is scheduled.

During the mediation, the foreclosure proceeding is put on hold. However, CVLS will appear in court on a regular basis to advise the judge of the progress of the mediation. Depending upon the progress of the mediation, the judge will either extend the mediation order or send the case back to the trial call.

When In Doubt, Notify Your Insurer Of Any Possible Claim

Most insurance policies require the insured to notify his insurer of a claim within a reasonable amount of time. An insured’s breach of a notice provision in an insurance policy by failing to give reasonable notice will defeat the right of the insured to recover under the policy.

If your insurer denies a claim and the dispute ends in a lawsuit, Illinois courts will look at four factors to determine whether an insurer has been given notification within a reasonable amount of time: (1) the specific language of the policy’s notice provision; (2) the insured’s sophistication in commerce and insurance matters; (3) the insured’s awareness of an event that may trigger insurance coverage; (4) the insured’s diligence in ascertaining whether policy coverage is available; and (5) prejudice to the insurer.

Notice provisions in an insurance policy are not merely technical requirements but, rather, conditions precedent to the triggering of the insurer’s contractual duties. Timely notice allows the insurer to make a proper and thorough investigation and to gather and preserve evidence.

West American Insurance Company v. Yorkville National Bank, Docket No. 108285 (September 23, 2010).

Living Wills

In Illinois, people have the fundamental right to control decisions relating to their medical care. This includes the right to control those decisions even after they become incapacitated. Recognizing this right, the Illinois legislature has passed the Illinois Living Will Act (755 ILCS 35/1 et seq.) which recognizes the right of people to make written instructions concerning their medical care, including the decision to have death delaying treatment withheld or withdrawn.

Adults and emancipated minors who are of sound mind may execute a declaration directing that if they are suffering from a terminal illness death delaying measures shall not be used to prolong their life. The declaration must be signed and witnessed by two persons 18 years of age or older.

Once it’s executed, you should provide a copy of the declaration to your doctor so that it becomes part of your medical record. You should also determine whether your physician is willing to comply with the provisions of the living will. Your doctor must advise you whether or not he intends to comply. If not, you should have your medical records transferred to a doctor who is willing to follow your wishes. It is your responsibility to initiate this transfer.

You have the right to revoke your living will at any time, whether or not you are of sound mind. The revocation may be made by destroying the declaration or by a written or oral revocation which clearly expresses your intent to revoke the original declaration. An oral or written revocation must be made in the presence of two persons 18 years of age or over. Your wish to revoke should be memorialized in writing and signed and dated by the witnesses.

Living wills executed in other states which comply with that state’s laws or the provisions of Illinois’ Living Will Act are recognized in Illinois.

Landlord – Tenant Relations: Security Deposits

In Chicago, the relationship between residential landlords and tenants is governed by the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. The ordinance establishes, regulates and determines the rights and obligations of both landlords and tenants in the rental of residential dwelling units.

Security Deposits: A security deposit remains the property of the tenant. The landlord must deposit security deposits in a federally insured interest bearing account. The name of the financial institution must be clearly disclosed in the rental agreement. The landlord must give the tenant a receipt for the security deposit.

The landlord must pay interest on the security deposit to the tenant within thirty (30) days after the end of each twelve (12) month rental period. The payment may be made either in cash or as a credit applied to rent that is due.

The landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant within forty-five (45) days after the date the tenant vacates the dwelling unit. If the dwelling unit is damaged or destroyed in a fire and the tenant terminates the rental agreement, the landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant within seven (7) days of the tenant’s notice of termination.

A landlord may withhold the reasonable amount necessary for the repair of any damage to the premises caused by the tenant or anyone under the tenant’s control. Normal wear and tear is to be excluded. The landlord must provide the tenant with an itemized statement of the damages and an estimated or actual cost of repair.

If the landlord fails to comply with any provision concerning security deposits, the tenant is entitled to receive two times the security deposit plus interest. The tenant may also be entitled to other damages.

Chicago Municipal Code 05-12-080

Duty to Remove Snow, Ice & Water

Under Illinois natural accumulation rule, landowners have no common law duty to remove natural accumulations of ice, snow or water from their property. The natural accumulation rule applies without regard to any ongoing precipitation or the length of time the natural accumulation has existed.

Examples of natural accumulation are: a sidewalk that has not been shoveled, puddles of water inside buildings from melting snow, ice formed by snow being packed down by pedestrians. Unnatural accumulation would be any actions by the property owner that cause snow or ice to accumulate in a specific location.

The reason for the natural accumulation rule is that it would be unreasonable to require landowners to expend funds and perform the labor necessary to constantly keep their property free from ice and snow during the winter months.

Recognizing that some homeowners may want to clear snow and ice from the sidewalks around their property, the Illinois legislature passed the Snow and Ice Removal Act, 745 ILCS 75/0.01 et seq., which provides that “[a]ny owner, lessor, occupant or other person in charge of any residential property, or any agent of or other person engaged by any such party, who removes or attempts to remove snow and ice from sidewalks abutting the property shall not be liable for any personal injuries allegedly caused by the snowy or icy condition of the sidewalk resulting from his or her acts or omissions unless the alleged misconduct was willful or wanton.” Willful and wanton misconduct generally requires the homeowner to exhibit a reckless disregard for the safety of others.

Please note that the Snow and Ice Removal Act applies to residential property owners only. Business owners may be liable for injuries caused by their negligent attempt to remove snow or ice.

While Illinois imposes no duty on landowners to remove snow and ice from their own property, some municipalities require landowners to remove snow and ice from the sidewalks abutting their property. For example, in Chicago, the city enacted section 10-8-180 of the Chicago Municipal Code, which states that, in general, “every owner, lessee, tenant, occupant or other person having charge of any building or lot of ground in the city abutting upon any public way or public place shall remove the snow and ice from the sidewalk in front of such building or lot of ground.” Therefore, Chicagoans are generally charged with the responsibility to shovel and remove ice or snow from the section of sidewalk in front of their home or business.

But like the Snow and Ice Removal Act, Section 10-8-190 of the Chicago Municipal Code provides that “any person, who removes snow or ice from the public sidewalk or street, shall not, as a result of his acts or omissions in such removal, be liable for civil damages.” In other words, the Chicago ordinance suggests that a business or property owner may be considered negligent for failing to shovel, salt or remove ice from the sidewalk, but not for removing snow/ice in a careless manner.