What is Foreclosure?
For individuals who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments, the receipt of a complaint for foreclosure can be terrifying. Our firm is here to defend you every step of the way. We have found, that for many individuals, the first question posed to our attorneys is "what are these papers?" Below is a brief summary of what you might see in a foreclosure proceeding.
First, you will receive many documents and disclosures from the mortgage holder. These may look like "mortgage assistance" documents, along with statements showing your arrearage (past due payments) and possibly other letters urging you to pay or stating that the lender is sending it to "pre-foreclosure". These letters are not the lawsuit, and you are not yet "in foreclosure". Many of the documents you will receive from the lender are required by law to be sent to you before the lender can file a foreclosure case with the court.
Next, if you have not caught up or worked out a payment arrangement, you will receive a Summons and Complaint. This is the "foreclosure filing". This means your mortgage company has filed a foreclosure lawsuit against you. At this stage in the process, many borrowers have the right to a Settlement Conference, at which you can attempt to work out a modification or other arrangements with the lender. This is very time sensitive and the request for a Settlement Conference must be made within 30 days or you lose that right. If this is not an option, or if the lender denies your application for assistance, the case will move to trial. If you do not defend, you will be defaulted, meaning the lender will get a judgement for foreclosure. If you do appear but don't have any defense to what the lender is asking for, the judgment for foreclosure will be entered. If you do have a defense, the judge will hear the case and decide it on the merits.
Once a judgment is entered in favor of the lender, the lender can move for sheriff sale. This is a key date for many of our clients. Once a house goes to sheriff sale you, as the borrower, lose the ability to save it so any action to save the home must occur before the date on the order for sale.
It is crucial that you don't delay when you've fallen behind on your mortgage. Quick action will help preserve your right to a settlement conference (and a chance to work out your loan), keep you from falling further behind, and prevent your home from going to sheriff sale. With careful planning you will have many options and opportunities to keep your home, but every case is different, so if you find yourself falling behind call one of our attorneys to discuss your situation immediately.