Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is putting $1.4 million toward legal help for renters. It's part of a $25 billion national settlement the state received in the wake of the foreclosure crisis.
Much of the settlement money, so far, has gone to help troubled homeowners who fell victim to widespread "robo-signing" of foreclosure documents and other fraudulent loan practices, but now renters are getting help, too.
Mark Swartz is the legal director of Lawyers Committee for Better Housing, which received the grant. He said tenants are the invisible victims of the foreclosure crisis.
"The tenant will usually accept a buyout deal that's not very fair to them. And it's because the tenant isn't being informed of what they're waiving by entering into these agreements to leave," he said.
Swartz said many tenants don't know their rights. He said renters are sometimes intimidated out of their apartments when they have the right to stay up to 90 days. In so-called "cash for keys" deals, tenants are offered money to vacate the property. Swartz said it's often an amount of money that doesn't cover relocation costs, and tenants are usually given a matter of weeks to quickly find a new place.
In some cases, Swartz said previous landlords are long gone before paying renters realize the property is in foreclosure. In other cases, renters are given misinformation of who to give rent money to.
The grant from the Attorney General's office will be used for education and outreach as well as legal defense.