$16 million up for grabs
As anyone practicing real estate knows, when a home is being foreclosed upon seeks to recoup what’s left an a mortgage, but sometimes winning auction bids are higher than the remaining value of the mortgage and those additional funds go to the former owner.
Many homeowners simply walk away and don’t know this to be how it works, so two years ago, Cook County in Illinois (home of Chicago) created a search engine for former property owners dating back to the 1990s to look up if they are entitled to any of the 19 million unclaimed dollars, with the average amount owed to foreclosed-upon homeowners is $2,000.
The database for just Cook County comprises of over 2,000 former property owners, most of whom have still not claimed any of their funds, leaving $16 million surplus to date, earning interest for the County.
One owner hasn’t claimed a $450,000 surplus
In one case, a commercial property owner has a whopping $450,000 surplus just waiting to be claimed. According to the Chicago Tribune, the county assessor’s office says it contacted one homeowner with a $200,000 surplus but never heard back.
“This money is not ours,” Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios tells the Chicago Tribune. “It belongs to the taxpayers.”
No time limit on claiming funds
There is no time limit former homeowners are held to regarding claiming surplus funds, and the County is actively seeking more ways to reach former homeowners from the kiosk that will be installed outside of the Cook County Assessor’s office to potential flyers in utility bills.
“We need to find better ways, more effective ways, to get the word out,” said Dorothy Brown, circuit court clerk.