Written by attorney Jeffrey B. Lampert

Florida Foreclosure: How much time to stay in house

Homeowners, unaware of the legal process, become fearful upon being served with a 20-day Summons that the Sheriff will be coming to throw them out of the house soon after the 20-day period expires.

Nothing could be further from the truth

In Florida, a homeowner has 20 days to respond to the process. Then, depending on whether the homeowner responds, the nature of the response, the issues raised, etc., there may come a point in time that a foreclosure judgment is entered. That might be months, possibly more than a year, down the road, or not at all.

This guide intended to give a Florida homeowner a sense of how much time will pass after judgment is entered before the home must be vacated.

By law, the sale of the property must take place 25-35 days from entry of the judgment, BUT IN REALITY, given the high numbers of foreclosures going through the system, the courts have not been able to comply with the statute!! For example, in Palm Beach County, the Clerk has requested a minimum of 40 days to set up the sale, and depending upon the process, the parties have agreed to 120 days.

Once the sale occurs, the Clerk is required to wait 10 calendar days before the Clerk can issue a Certificate of Title to allow a party to object to the procedure used--not to argue about the judgment but the process of the sale. Until the Certificate of Title is issued, the home still is entitled to the homeowner. Again, based upon the large volume of cases, Clerks of some counties are taking 2-3-4 weeks before issuing the Certificate of Title.

Once the Certificate of Title is issued, the successful bidder at the sale must request that a Writ of Possession be issued by the Clerk of the Court. In some counties, that means that an Order must be entered by a judge directing the Clerk to do so. That means more paper being shuffled.

Once the Writ of Possession is issued by the Clerk, the Writ must be delivered to the Sheriff's office, where it is then processed and a deputy [wearing civil attire, for the most part] will post a 24-hour notice. Often, the notice is posted on Thursdays and Fridays, thereby giving inhabitants the weekend to complete their move.

Other factors that would effect the "move out" date: whether a bankruptcy were to be filed; whether the new owner will be interested in renting the premises to the old owner; whether an alternate arrangement can be agreed upon between them.

In summary, while the service of a Summons is not pleasant, and means that the home is in jeopardy, the homeowner should not panic at that point in time. Being forced to move out is a significant amount of time away in the future.

The homeowner should consult with an attorney, or several, to determine whether there are defenses to the law suit, or defects in the pleadings that must be remedied, before the case can go forward. It may be quite a long time before a foreclosure judgment can be entered.

Good luck to you all during this difficult time.

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