Common Foreclosure Questions

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What is Foreclosure?
A foreclosure is when a lender (like a bank or mortgage company) takes the title of your property by forcing a sheriff's sale of your home after you fail to pay part of the debt. If you fall behind on your mortgage payments, the lender can then sue for foreclosure and take over your property. This will force you to move out of your home, and could also affect your credit rating and your ability to get loans in the future.

What should I do if I receive a letter from my lender about foreclosure?
HUD recommends the following actions if you receive a letter about foreclosure:

  • Do not ignore the letter. Instead, you should call or write to your lender and explain your current financial situation. You will need to give them your current financial information. The lender might be able to offer you some help if the lender knows your financial situation.

  • Stay in your home for the time being. You might not be able to qualify for certain kinds of assistance if you leave the property. As long as a court has not ordered you to leave the property, you can stay.

  • Contact a housing counseling agency. These organizations can give you information about programs and services offered by both private and public organizations. Their services are usually free of charge. Be cooperative; these agencies are there to help you try to stay in your home.

If the bank takes my home in a foreclosure, can they still sue me for money?
Yes, generally the mortgage contract provides that you are liable for the balance due on the mortgage after the home is sold. If the bank takes the home and sells it, but doesn't sell it for as much as you still owe on it, the bank can ask the court to enter a judgment against you for the difference.

I just want to sell my home, but the lender is threatening foreclosure. Can I sell my home or is it too late?
Yes, you can sell your home. You should tell your lender that you want to try to sell your home, and the lender may give you a certain amount of time to try to sell your home and pay off the money owed to the lender. You should try to sell your home for the amount you owe the lender. If you sell your home for less than you owe the lender and you can't pay the whole mortgage/fees, then the lender could still sue you and get a judgment against you for the rest of the money owed. (It is possible that the lender will agree to accept the money you get from the sale and not sue you for the difference. This is something to discuss with the lender).

I see advertisements for companies who will help me avoid the foreclosure. Can these companies help me?
Maybe, but you must be very careful. There is a possibility that you will be dealing with a scam artist, who is trying to take advantage of your financial situation. To avoid getting caught in a scam, HUD suggests:

  1. Don't sign anything you don't understand.
  2. Get all promises in writing.
  3. Beware of a contract that does not formally release you from mortgage debt.
  4. Check with a lawyer before entering into any deal.
  5. If you're selling your house, make sure there are no complaints against the prospective buyer (through the Attorney General's Office etc.)

Where can I get help or more information?
You can contact a private attorney or your local legal services agency if you are facing foreclosure. An attorney may be able to help. You may want to consider bankruptcy as an option because bankruptcy can sometimes help you keep your home.

Reviewed August 2009