Mortgage Foreclosure FAQs
Q: What is Foreclosure?
Foreclosure is a process in which a lender (a bank, mortgage company, or other lender) takes possession of a home or property or forces the sale of the property in order to recover an unpaid balance on a home loan in which the borrower has failed to make payments. When this occurs, the borrower’s rights to the property are terminated and they lose their home.
The threat of foreclosure has become increasingly common among homeowners in the United States, especially in North Florida, in recent years due to the struggling economy. Issues such as job loss, extended unemployment, divorce, illness, death, and other crises that affect a homeowner’s ability to keep up with mortgage payments have resulted in more and more lenders pursuing foreclosure as a means to recover their investments.
Q: How does the foreclosure process work?
Prior to a lender filing a foreclosure lawsuit, the lender will send a Notice of Default (NOD) to borrowers that have missed a few payments. This letter reminds the borrower that they have violated the terms of the mortgage by not making payments and warns that if the payments are not promptly made, the lender will file a foreclosure lawsuit. At this point, the process hasn’t legally begun because a suit hasn’t been filed in court, and this is the best time to either catch up on missed payments or try to make arrangements with the lender such as refinancing or mortgage modification. If payments or other arrangements aren’t made after receiving the Notice of Default, the only way a lending company in the state of Florida can initiate foreclosure on your home is by filing a lawsuit against you in the Circuit Court in the county in which the property is located. This process is referred to as “acceleration” and once this happens, you are served with notice of the foreclosure and the entire balance of the loan is considered to be due. You then have twenty days to respond once you have been served with notice of the foreclosure lawsuit. A response must be filed with the court within that timeframe or your defense options under the law are seriously limited and the foreclosure is likely to continue through to completion very quickly.
It is imperative to file a response within the twenty day window because it buys borrowers more time to consider other options that will help them keep their home and protect their investment. In some cases, homeowners can delay the sale of their property for as much as two years. However, once a lender files a motion for summary judgment and the motion is granted, a sale date is set for the property (usually 35 days from the time of the summary judgment). Once the sale occurs, the homeowner loses their home and must vacate the property.
An attorney can work with borrowers to halt or slow down the foreclosure process and can also help homeowners pursue other means of retaining their homes or protecting their investments. Knowledgeable, compassionate and trusted lawyers will provide guidance, file legal documentation, communicate with the lender and the court, and will work to defend your rights.
Q: What is the 20 day foreclosure clock?
A: The “20-day foreclosure clock” refers to the twenty days you have from the time you are served with notice that a lawsuit of foreclosure has been filed against you to file a response with the courts in defense of the foreclosure. This timeframe goes by very quickly, especially when you are already dealing with the stresses of financial difficulties and the prospect of losing your home. That is why the best defense you have to protect yourself is to quickly obtain the services of an experienced and compassionate lawyer that can provide you with the information and guidance you need to most appropriately defend yourself. If this timeframe passes by without you filing a formal response to the lawsuit, your defense options are seriously limited by the law and it is likely that the foreclosure will proceed through to completion very quickly.
Q: What are my options for avoiding foreclosure?
If you are facing financial difficulties and have not been able to keep up with mortgage payments on your home, your lender may initiate foreclosure proceedings against you. In some cases, a knowledgeable and aggressive law firm can halt the process by showing proof that the lawsuit does not have merit or is illegal. This can happen in circumstances in which the foreclosure is based on a predatory loan or the lender does not have the legal authority to initiate foreclosure (for example, they don’t actually own the loan or don’t have the original promissory note and mortgage).
There are other options for avoiding foreclosure, even if the process has begun. Financial and legal options such as refinancing, mortgage modification, a deed in lieu of foreclosure agreement, bankruptcy and a short sale can help you protect your investment. Many homeowners do not realize that they can negotiate with lenders to modify the terms of their loan so that they can continue to make payments and avoid foreclosure. Discussing all options and determining which one best meets the specific criteria related to your financial situation is the best way to proceed.
Q: If the foreclosure process has begun, can I still keep my home?
A: Even if a lender has initiated a lawsuit against you, there are a variety of options that afford you the possibility of keeping your home. For one, a lawyer can fight the lawsuit. Although these cases are often difficult, there are issues that can result in halting a foreclosure lawsuit. There are also other options that you can consider for retaining your home and warding off foreclosure, such as refinancing and mortgage modifications, a deed in lieu of foreclosure and bankruptcy. Of course, if you can come up with the finances to pay the lender what is owed on your mortgage, you can stop the foreclosure process. The important thing to remember is that if you are served with notice of a foreclosure lawsuit, you must act quickly to respond to the suit and need to determine the most effective way to proceed, given the circumstances and your ability to make payments, so that you have the best chance of retaining your home.
Q: What else do I need to know about foreclosure?
A: Homeowners struggling with financial difficulties have a lot on their mind, and knowing that a lender is taking steps to foreclose on their home adds greatly to the stress and confusion. Most people facing foreclosure have many questions regarding their options for defending against foreclosure and saving their home. We are happy to answer any questions you may have and offer free, no-obligation consultation. Simply call us at (877) 315-5107, or contact us by e-mail to schedule an initial consultation or case evaluation.
Q: What will a foreclosure defense attorney do for me?
A: The first thing will do is to offer you a free consultation to discuss your case. Once we have more information about the details surrounding your foreclosure, we will provide you with options related to defending the lawsuit and will also discuss alternatives with you that may help you protect yourself and your investment, such as refinancing, mortgage modification, a deed in lieu of foreclosure agreement, bankruptcy and short sale. If you choose to have us defend your foreclosure case, we will file a response to the lawsuit within the twenty-day window allowed by law and will work tirelessly to defend your rights to keep your home. Every foreclosure defense is different, depending on the client’s circumstances, so we will tailor our defense and our legal and financial guidance to best fit your unique situation.
Q: In what areas of North Florida do you provide foreclosure defense services?
A: The Chauncey Law Firm, P.A., with offices located in Live Oak, Lake City and Jacksonville Florida, provides legal services throughout North Florida.
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