ILGAcaptureIn keeping with the Office’s Statement of Purpose – “Accuracy – Efficiency – Advocacy” – Recorder Karen Yarbrough is again pushing legislation in Springfield to improve the lives of the Cook County residents she serves. Many thanks to our sponsors – Senator Bill Cunningham, Senator Dan Kotowski, Representative Chris Welch, Representative Marcus Evans, and Representative Greg Harris, for helping all of our bills successfully pass their first chamber.

Below is an update on the three bills the Recorder’s Office has authored for 2015.

Senate Bill 1596 (Kotowski/Welch) – The “Ernie Banks Will Bill – This legislation will allow a county Recorder of Deeds to digitally safeguard electronic scanned images of an individual’s last will and testament, and release them after their death to a pre-approved list of eligible retrievers. This gives County residents peace of mind that an identical copy of their last wishes will always be available to their heirs, in case the original is misplaced or destroyed. The bill states that copies of wills deposited in our office are not public records, meaning they aren’t available for public inspection or retrievable by a Freedom of Information Request. Recorder Yarbrough is using the high-profile fight over the will of Mr. Cub – Ernie Banks – to raise awareness for important end-of-life planning issues. If this law had been available for Mr. Cub, the filing of it could have been one more item for the judge to consider when determining if the last will of record was executed of sound mind.

Status: Passed Senate, awaits action in House

Senate Bill 1487 (Cunningham/Evans) – “Freeze Title” to Prevent Foreclosure Squatting – A large percentage of the property fraud seen by the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office involves sovereign citizens “squatting” on vacant homes in the foreclosure process. Due to their misunderstanding of Illinois law, these squatters will file false notices of “adverse possession,” or false mechanics liens, believing that doing so gives them legal right to live in the property indefinitely. Recorder Yarbrough believes that it is in the best interest of the community – when all measures to prevent a foreclosure have failed – that a vacant home be put back on the market as soon as possible, so it can contribute to a better economy. People who squat in vacant homes seek a narrow, personal benefit at the expense of the community, and activity like this causes fear and panic in neighborhoods. Yarbrough’s legislation will create a pilot program to allow a foreclosing lender to “freeze” the chain of title on a property, and only a judge at that point can authorize subsequent recordings. This will allow the Recorder’s Office to refuse to allow bogus documents to muddy an already cumbersome process.

Status: Passed Senate, awaits action in House

House Bill 3672 (Harris/Cunningham) – Property Fraud Alert at Closing Table – Many recorders of deeds across the country utilize a “recording alert” software program to allow concerned citizens to be notified when a document affecting their property is publicly recorded. Yarbrough’ bill will allow real estate professionals – whether they be lenders, title companies, or realtors – to officially partner with CCRD to offer this free service at the time when a new homeowner is closing on their property. The closing table is the best time to sign up for this Alert, because the purchase of title insurance guarantees a clear title at that time, but does not protect against fraudulent recordings going forward.

Status: Passed House, awaits action in Senate