Do Not Ignore the Summons and Complaint!
The worst thing you can do is ignore the papers with which you were served. Once you have been served with the summons and complaint, you have 30 days to respond to the complaint. This is, unfortunately, where most residential foreclosures end. Most people fail to realize that they have rights, even if they don't have the money to pay the mortgage. If you do not file a response to the complaint, usually in the form of an answer, the bank will file a motion for default judgment. This is a motion that asks the court to enter a judgment against you based on the allegations raised in the complaint, because you have failed to deny any of the allegations. If this happens to you, called a default judgment, you will lose your home in no time at all.
File a Strong Answer
Filing a weak or improper answer is just as bad as ignoring the summons and complaint altogether. Remember, you are up against professionals who do nothing but litigate residential foreclosures against people like you. In other words, if you go it alone you are at a severe disadvantage. If your answer fails to deny any of the material elements of the foreclosure complaint, or fails to raise any legitimate defenses, the bank will file a motion for summary judgment that will almost assuredly be granted. Also, if you have any legitimate claims against the bank, now is the time to bring them. Simply putting down on paper that the bank acted unfairly is not going to cut it here. You need to come up with a legally cognizable cause of action. That is a fancy way of saying that your claim must be recognized by the courts as being legitimate under Illinois law.
Read up on the court's mediation program. Usually the first step is to meet with a housing counselor who can write a letter recommending you for the mediation program. If the court approves your request, the bank will be forced to attend a mediation session in front of a neutral third party, for the purpose of working out a loan modification or other solution to the foreclosure. Another benefit to the mediation program is that it will put the foreclosure case on hold while the mediation proceeds. This could take possibly add months to the process.
Be Ready to Bargain
Even though all may seem lost, you have options. Banks want the property back so that they can sell it and hopefully recover as much of the debt as possible. This usually means that they want the property back as quickly, and in as good of a condition as possible. Some banks are willing to work with a borrower, after a foreclosure is filed, to achieve this goal. In return, banks have been known to offer a variety of incentives.
Above All, Remember that the Bank and their Lawyers Have Separate Goals
Most pro-se defendants who come into court will tell the judge that they are working on a modification with the bank. The number one thing a judge will tell them is that, outside of the mediation program, working on a modification with the bank has absolutely no effect on the foreclosure lawsuit. While you may have a contact at the bank with whom you are working toward a modification, that doesn't mean you can ignore what is going on in the court. Once a bank gives the lawyers the green light to file the foreclosure complaint, the lawyers' only interest is getting a judgment as quickly as possible. In most cases, the lawyers and the people you are talking to at the bank have never spoken with each other. The two processes are completely separate, and you should pay equal attention to both.