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Property foreclosed? Cook Co. hold $16M in fund waiting to be claimed

Updated: November 16, 2011 1:25AM



About $16 million is sitting in a Cook County court fund, just waiting for the rightful owners — namely home and business owners who lost their property to foreclosure, officials said Thursday.

The money is part of a mortgage foreclosure surplus fund — profits generated when foreclosed property is sold for more than what the original owner owed the bank.

Nearly 2,000 property owners have an average of $2,000 coming to them from foreclosures that date back to the 1990s. Amounts range from 13 cents to $460,000 owed to a business, Brown said.

For two years, Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown has been trying to get the word out to former property owners to call her office or go to her website and use the search engine to see if they have money coming to them.

By state law, her office maintains the account. But having had only marginal success in finding those to whom money is due, she announced Thursday that a task force of city, county and state officials is working on a better marketing strategy.

“We need to find a better way, even a more effective way to get the word out,” Brown said Thursday at a news conference with other elected leaders.

“We know that these are emotional times for individuals when they lose property so we want to ensure they understand when they lose their property they have not lost all of their rights.”

She was approached by Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios about expanding outreach to find the owners of the money.

“This is not county money. . . . This is foreclosure money and that doesn’t belong in that county coffers, it doesn’t belong sitting in a bank,” Berrios said at the news conference outside his downtown county building office. “It’s just sitting there while these people could use the funds.”

Elected leaders have vowed to publicize the surplus funds on their websites and may work on public service announcements for radio and television. Brown said they may enlist one of the utility companies to include a notice when the monthly bills go out.

“We know that in these difficult economic times every last dollar counts,” Mike Simmons, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, said at the mews conference. The mayor’s office has agreed to notify people of the surplus fund on the city’s website. “As families lose their jobs, as people try to find the resources they need to put food on the table, to put their kids through school and put their kids through college, to save for retirement, we need to make sure everybody has every last dollar that’s rightfully theirs.”

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s office also is pledging to help, as is Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore.

When a property is foreclosed on, the lending institutions and even the company that brokers the property sale may have only the address of the property in question — making it difficult to track people down, Brown said.

“A lot of people just don’t look back” once they lose a property, she said. “They don’t leave a forwarding address because they have creditors” seeking payment.

To see if you are owed mortgage surplus funds, call Brown’s office at (312) 603-5030 or go to services.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org/foreclosure/.



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