Safeguard Properties LLC filed on Tuesday a motion to dismiss a complaint brought against the company by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who has charged Safeguard with illegally evicting homeowners before their foreclosures were finalized.
In her complaint, which was filed in Cook County Circuit Court in September, Madigan alleges that Safeguard “has unlawfully dispossessed legal occupants of their homes by breaking into occupied houses, locking the occupants out of their homes, removing the occupants’ personal property, and shutting off utilities in the home, often in the face of clear evidence that the property remains legally occupied.”
In their motion to dismiss, Safeguard’s attorneys argue that Madigan’s complaint is based on four alleged instances in 2008 (out of the company’s estimated 90,000 inspections conducted in the state each month). They also refute claims that Safeguard misled consumers to believe they needed to vacate the property when they were legally allowed to stay:
“The State contends that Safeguard deceived mortgagors by placing a sticker on the door of properties found to be vacant. But the sticker attached as an exhibit to the State’s own complaint is not misleading at all; it merely informs the reader of the vacancy determination and asks the reader to call Safeguard is the home is actually occupied,” the motion reads.
Out of the four instances highlighted in the complaint, Safeguard says two of the properties involved were vacant (though not abandoned) at the time its vendors performed securing services, while one was declared to be occupied after entry, with all damage repaired.
Based on its argument that the state failed to prove any deceptive or fraudulent practices, Safeguard is seeking dismissal of the suit entirely.
In a statement, the company said it has moved to dismiss the complaint “because it is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law.”
“Every day, consistent with obligations imposed both by federal guidelines and state and local laws, Safeguard vendors inspect properties delinquent on their mortgages and secure those found vacant or abandoned, thereby addressing the epidemic of blight, depressed home values, and criminal activity caused by abandoned homes from the foreclosure crisis that began in 2008 and continues to this day. In focusing on just four allegedly erroneous vacancy determinations by Safeguard vendors over the past five-and-a-half years—when the company currently performs approximately 90,000 property inspections and 7,000 preservations every month in Illinois alone—the lawsuit wrongly attempts to challenge Safeguard’s business practices with no factual or legal basis for doing so,” the statement went on to say.
Safeguard has said it “will continue to defend itself vigorously throughout the course of the litigation.”