Due to the current economic turmoil being experienced in the United States, there are many homeowners who now find themselves in the position of being behind on their mortgage payments. It goes without saying that this is an extremely stressful, and often scary scenario to find oneself in. Having an understanding of foreclosure laws can go a long way in helping to alleviate this stress, and empower oneself to take the appropriate actions to work with the bank and get things back on track.
Unfortunately, gaining such an understanding can be difficult, given that foreclosure laws vary from state to state. The process can be quite different from one state to another, and these differences will largely determine the proper course of action for a homeowner.
Foreclosure Laws in California
However, as an example, let’s examine the foreclosure laws in the state of California and how they impact the potential time line for foreclosure by the bank, and the eviction process if things progress to that level. Keep in mind that the timeframes stated here are merely what is possible. Your particular lender may not operate completely according to this schedule.
- In California, after 90 days of non-payment on your mortgage, California foreclosure law allows the bank to record a Notice of Default.
- After an additional 90 days, the bank is allowed to record a Notice of Trustee’s Sale.
- 21 days later, it is possible for the bank to sell your home at a foreclosure auction. This could result either in the bank finding a buyer for the home, or if the home does not sell at auction the bank could take the property back as an “REO”, or real estate-owned property. If your home sells at auction, at that point it could be nearly impossible to retain your home.
- If the bank does take the property back as an REO, the bank’s asset manager may offer what is known as a “cash for keys” deal. Basically, the bank offers from $3,000 to $5,000 for you to voluntarily move out of the home within 3-4 weeks. After you have vacated the property, the agent for the bank can list the property on MLS for sale to the general public.
Once the process of selling your home is initiated by the bank, there are various methods available at your disposal to stop it, assuming that you are looking to buy enough time to work out a resumption of payments with the bank.
One option to stop the sale is filing bankruptcy. This creates an automatic stay on the foreclosure process. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work as a long-term solution because a bankruptcy designed to allow you to keep your home often will require you to resume payments at the same amount you were at before going into default, plus more in order to pay off your arrears over three to five years. Obviously, unless your income has been restored to prior levels, this often is not a workable scenario.
The only other way to force the bank to stop foreclosure is to sue the bank and get an injunction to halt the process. There are only a few possible grounds on which you can file such a suit, including statutory violations or mistakes during the foreclosure proceedings, and common law violations such as violation of the HAMP program, fraud, or breach of contract.
For any of these options, it is imperative that you seek advice from a qualified expert in the foreclosure laws of your particular state.