Foreclosure & Alternatives Law
What Are a Homeowner's Rights During Foreclosure?
Losing your home can be a painful process. If you’ve fallen on hard financial times and are facing foreclosure, you need to understand your rights and options during each stage. With the right information, you may be able to delay or prevent the foreclosure action entirely and stay in your house.
Foreclosure laws are different in every state. This page can provide general information about the foreclosure process, but you should If you talk to a foreclosure lawyer where you live about your legal rights.
Foreclosure is the legal process of a lender taking control of real estate when the borrower is behind on payments. The borrower and mortgage lender have a financial interest in the property. The loan agreement provides that when the borrower/homeowner is past due on mortgage payments, the lender can take back and sell the property to recover the amount owed.
While missing a single payment generally won’t start foreclosure, the lender is likely to begin foreclosure proceedings after a certain number of missed payments. If your mortgage states how many payments this is, make sure you are always aware of that number.
The process of foreclosure varies by state. Foreclosure laws have also changed in the past decade following the housing crisis of 2008.
Foreclosure doesn’t happen overnight. The timeline begins from the due date of the last paid installment to the date of the foreclosure sale. Depending on the state, a typical foreclosure can take anywhere from a few months to a few years.
The foreclosure process is usually triggered when a homeowner defaults or misses monthly payments, typically for at least 120 days. The mortgage company has to give notice of default before they can sell your property. After getting the notice of default, you have loss mitigation options, including making back payments to stop foreclosure.
Depending on state law, there can be a judicial foreclosure or non-judicial foreclosure. Judicial foreclosure means the lender has to file a foreclosure lawsuit to begin the foreclosure process. You will have the opportunity to defend yourself and assert your rights.
Your mortgage servicer may be willing to work with you to allow you to avoid foreclosure. You may be able to get a loan modification to lower the interest rate, reduce payment amounts, or extend the loan repayment schedule. The foreclosure process can take a long time, so most lenders have an interest in maintaining the mortgage contract instead of a foreclosure lawsuit.
In some states, homeowners can request foreclosure mediation to settle the dispute and avoid eviction. Mediation involves working with a 3rd party mediator and coming to a mutual agreement with your lender.
In some cases, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can put a hold on the foreclosure process. If you can qualify for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it will stay the foreclosure until you arrange a repayment plan.
There are state and federal programs to help homeowners get mortgage relief and avoid foreclosure. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development can connect homeowners with housing counselors to understand their options. There may also be state and local resources for people having trouble covering their mortgage loan payments.
There are alternatives to foreclosure, including a short sale and deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. A short sale is also known as a pre-foreclosure sale. With a short sale, the lender allows the property to be sold for less than the amount due. A deed-in-lieu of foreclosure means the homeowner transfers ownership to the lender for full satisfaction of the amount due.
There are many types of foreclosure scams targeting homeowners in financial trouble. Be cautious of any offers that sound too good to be true. If you have other questions about your legal options before, during, and after foreclosure, talk to a foreclosure attorney in your state for advice.