One of the most unpleasant experiences for any homeowner is foreclosure or the repossession of one’s house. If a homeowner falls behind on mortgage payments and cannot sell the home due to its negative equity, there is a good chance that the bank that holds the mortgage will eventually foreclose. The net effect of this process after all is said and done is that you are no longer the owner of record and that you must vacate the house. If you receive notice of foreclosure, you do not have to pack up and leave that moment. You may wonder how long you have, and there is some debate about that. In short, it depends upon your course of action.
Foreclosure by the Book
Once you receive notice of foreclosure, the bank still has to process all of the necessary forms. Depending on their backlog of foreclosures and how many staff they have working on it, this could take anywhere between 2 months and 2 years. Upon receiving notice, start to make plans for what you and your family will do, but by no means leave your home at that moment.
Once the process has been completed, the local sheriff’s office will serve a notice of eviction giving you a set amount of time–usually 30 days. At that point, the home has been sold at an auction. If you stay longer than that amount of time, you may be forcibly removed.
Fight the Foreclosure
In an environment of rampant foreclosure where it is happening to more and more families, some are choosing to fight it. If you have access to legal counsel or are well disposed to challenge the foreclosure yourself, you may be able to buy yourself some time. Foreclosure attorneys will tell you that is all you are doing, but if you wish to make a fight of it, that is your prerogative. When mortgages are divided into small fractions and sold to investors in packages known as securities, it can be difficult to identify exactly which bank holds your mortgage. If your bank was responsible and did not engage in such securitization, they will have your mortgage, and you will have little recourse.
One way to buy time is to draft letters in response to those you receive. If you believe your mortgage to have been securitized, you have the right to ask questions and demand full disclosure of information. If you go this route, you will receive threatening letters from banks’ legal staff, but it can’t hurt to try.
In some communities where the foreclosure rate is incredibly high, the sheriff staff may refuse to evict families from their homes. Don’t rely on this, for it is rare and requires a law enforcement authority willing to take a stand against excessive eviction. In other cases, there are so many foreclosures in one area that the banks that own the homes cannot do anything with them, so they simply sit vacant. These situations offer a creative opportunity for families to stay in their homes longer than accorded by the terms of foreclosure.
Foreclosure is a frightening prospect for families. You have the right to act and ask questions, though. Try to renegotiate with the holder of your mortgage. If that does not work, talk to a lawyer. There may be recourse for you that allows you to stay in your home well after foreclosure papers have been served.