LINCOLN PARK — The Cook County Sheriff and a Chicago alderman joined a protest against illegal evictions Wednesday.
"This is insane," said Sheriff Tom Dart outside the Lincoln Park offices of CHIProperties Inc. "This is wrong. People have rights. And the people involved, they know this. I'm so tired of this."
Two dozen protesters marched Wednesday morning from the CTA Red Line station at North Avenue and Clybourn Street to the CHIProperties office at 1512 N. Fremont St. to draw attention to the plight of Luis Islas.
The West Rogers Park resident rents in a building that's in foreclosure, and he said he received a notice from CHIProperties warning that he had 48 hours to "vacate" the building.
The letter threatened that "a sheriff constable will come to the property with a locksmith, change the locks, and escort you off the property regardless of your personal belongings" if he did not make immediate arrangements with the office to move.
He said workers subsequently tried to board up the building with his family inside.
"They think they can do whatever they want, but it's not right," Islas said.
Dart said the notice given to Islas and others like it "completely and totally disregard what the law is."
"They're not legal. They're not from our office," Dart said
He and others in the protest pointed out that federal and state laws call for landlords to give at least 90 days notice before such an eviction can take place, with a legal process established before the sheriff's office actually executes the eviction.
Dart said he had delivered cease-and-desist letters to CHIProperties and another realty firm believed to have sent out similar notices. He added that he was consulting with the Illinois Attorney General's Office on further legal action.
"Renters are being treated unfairly, and we need to hold banks accountable when they break the law," said protest organizer Nancy Enopena of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council.
Dart said banks could be held accountable if they knowingly hired a realty company to carry out such an eviction threat.
The Albany Park council, other neighborhood organizations and Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) got involved because the issue dovetails with the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance, which calls on mortgage holders to allow renters to remain in foreclosed properties until those properties are sold to another owner.
"If this ordinance was in place, my family would not be affected," Islas said.
Burnett said aldermen seeking to pass the anti-eviction ordinance, including lead sponsor Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), were making progress in negotiations with the Emanuel administration and Ald. Ray Suarez (31st), chairman of the Housing Committee, who has been accused of stonewalling on it. He expected the ordinance to be ready for passage in May.
"It don't make sense to put the people out," Burnett said. "We're all in agreement that it's a no-brainer to keep people in these buildings."
Mike Stanek, of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, led protesters in an attempt to meet with CHIProperties representatives, but they were refused admittance.
"They don't care about breaking the law or the devastating effect these notices have on families," said Diane Limas of the Albany Park council. "This is just plain wrong, and it's got to stop."
A CHIProperties employee said the person whose name was on the questionable eviction notices has since left the firm, but not over the notices. Otherwise, the firm declined to comment.
Dart said anyone who receives such a notice should contact his office about the firm that sent it, "because we're gonna have a little chat with them in a hurry."
Anyone receiving such an illegal eviction notice can call 773-674-7710.