September 1, 2015
by Colin Winters
Anselmo Lindberg Oliver LLC – USFN Member (Illinois)
On August 21, 2015 the governor of Illinois signed the Cook County Recorder Title Freeze Act into law, effective January 1, 2016. The new Act provides that in any foreclosure case in Cook County, the plaintiff may ask the court to bar any non-record claimants or the owner from recording any interest on the property during the pendency of the foreclosure action. Once this order is delivered to the Cook County Recorder, a non-record claimant or owner can only record an interest after displaying a certified court order allowing them to do so. If the recorder discovers that an interest was filed erroneously, the recorder will record a new document specifying the erroneous document and explicitly voiding it.
This legislative action is a reaction to the ever-increasing “paper terrorism” that sovereign citizens and their ilk file in a variety of court cases. Notably, in 2012, the federal government indicted (and later convicted) a sovereign citizen for filing bogus liens against multiple public officials (including a former U.S. prosecutor, a district court judge, and a former chief judge).
As such, this new Act should be read as a companion piece to the last legislative session’s acts concerning clouding title. Public Act 98-099 allowed recorders offices throughout the state to establish fraud referral and review programs, with the legislature finding that “Property fraud, including fraudulent filings intended to cloud or fraudulently transfer title to property by recording false or altered documents and deeds, is a rapidly growing problem throughout the State.” Further, Public Act 98-098 escalated the penalty for unlawful clouding of title from a misdemeanor to a class IV felony.
Plaintiffs will want to take advantage of this new Act any time there is an indication that someone may record bogus documents. For example, if the plaintiff were to receive a sovereign citizen-style pleading in a foreclosure case, it would be wise to freeze the title as soon as possible to prevent any fraudulent recording.
Unfortunately, the Cook County Recorder Title Freeze Act is not automatic; the legislature has placed the responsibility of seeking relief on the plaintiffs. Rather than proactively barring any non-record claimant or owner from recording interests, the Act requires that the plaintiff must first bring a motion to bar them, then record that order with the recorder’s office and pay the standard fee for recording. To best protect the interests of all plaintiffs, these motions should be presented at the earliest opportunity in each case.
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