We met with Monique to ask her about her success story and she began by saying that she just “took it one step at a time with a trusted path, asked questions and had options. Brendan answered a lot of questions for us.”
About two years ago, Monique contacted Brendan Saunders, our director of Organizing and Advocacy, because she found out that the apartment she was renting was in foreclosure, due to letter from an Open Communities outreach worker*. She remembers Brendan reassuring her to “just hang tight.” He informed her of her rights as a renter; she had at least 90 days until she could be asked to move out**. “It gave us a measure of ‘you don’t have to panic here.’ You do have rights” said Monique.
Simultaneously, things were looking up for her family. The other families moved out so she was able to take in two rescue dogs that live in the basement apartment. “My kids’ dreams came true.” Monique decided to look at things in a positive light. She had 90 days since she received the letter to move out, which happened to fall on Christmas Day. “I saw it as a new beginning whether I got to stay in the building or if I was supposed to move on.”
Monique really loves her community in Evanston. “It is diverse and close to the lake.” She didn’t want to have to change her two children’s schools. Signs started being posted that the water would be turned off. Monique and her husband, Jay, started paying the water bill and the gas bill upstairs so that pipes didn’t bust during the winter. They were thinking of buying the building when the investment firm that bought the building contacted them. Monique mentioned this to the man on the phone. “He took a little sliver of a door that was open” and asked her to bid. As they bid back and forth, it was clear they wanted to make this a “win-win”; a quick flip for the firm to make money and allowing an Evanston family to own a house and stay in Evanston.
A deal was made but there were delays with the bank. “Things were drawn out for months and we hadn’t even paid any rent to the firm.” Right as they were about the close, Jay became unemployed and had a month until he began his new job. The investment firm then let Monique and Jay rent the place until the employment confirmation paperwork could be processed.
Today, Monique and Jay live with their two children in the building they own. The total process from final foreclosure date to ownership date was 11 months. They are now landlords for a family who rent upstairs and “it is obvious a friendship is forming.” They just moved from Chicago to Evanston as their family continues to grow. Open Communities is working to train Monique and her husband how to be effective property managers. This service is available due to a generous grant for Landlord and Tenant Education and Dispute Resolution from the City of Evanston.
“My recommendation to anyone in foreclosure is ‘don’t panic’”. Months after contacting Open Communities, Monique’s family went from being renters with unreliable landlords to potentially homeless to landlords with new friendly neighbors.
Congratulations to you, Monique and Jay! It pays to see the light and this is truly the new beginning you envisioned on that sunny day at the post office when you received your 90-day letter.
*The Cook County Circuit Court Foreclosure Mediation Program, as administered by The Chicago Community Trust, provides free housing counseling and legal services to Cook County homeowners and families in foreclosure. The program is aimed at helping homeowners resolve their mortgage cases in the most timely and respectful manner possible. To participate in the mediation program, you must be a resident of Cook County who has a received a foreclosure summons. To participate, call the toll free help line at 877-895-2444 or request an appointment on-line at www.CookCountyForeclosureHelp.org.
**This would not have been possible without the support of both the City of Evanston and the Woods Fund of Chicago.