WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU ARE SUED FOR FORECLOSURE IN FLORIDA
A foreclosure lawsuit can be very stressful and devastating for homeowners and their families. It is imperative to know what to expect when you are named a defendant in a foreclosure lawsuit in order to mitigate potential losses and make educated decisions.
What Can I Expect at the Outset?You can expect to receive many notices from your lender in the mail. Initially, you will receive information regarding foreclosure prevention alternatives, which may prove helpful. After the lender files the foreclosure action against you, you may receive important notices with regard to your case, including deadlines and court hearing dates. Once your lender has initiated a foreclosure lawsuit against you, the lender must serve you with a summons and foreclosure complaint. This is called service of process, a procedure in which the lender provides you with notice of the initiation of a legal action against you in an effort to exercise jurisdiction over you and to enable you to respond to the legal action before the court. It is important to note that you must respond to the complaint in writing and/or serve and file with the court an appropriate written response within 20 days of being served with the summons and complaint. A delay in serving and filing the appropriate response may jeopardize your case and make the situation you are in even worse. A knowledgeable attorney can file and serve an Answer (which denies the allegations made against you by the lender in the complaint) or an Answer together with Affirmative Defenses (which are legal defenses specifically delineating certain types of misconduct on the lender's part that defeat the lender's legal claims) on your behalf. An attorney cannot cause undue delay; however, in the exercise of your legal rights, the foreclosure process may become delayed as a result of a proper defense. A solid foreclosure defense strategy may allow you time in your home to recuperate financially or to choose the best alternative. Before responding, it is advisable to retain an attorney in order to present an adequate responsive pleading.
What Happens If I Don't Do Anything?Neglecting to take immediate action can cost you and your family dearly and give the lenders added leverage against you. Not taking any action, being the worst possible scenario, will result in a default and default judgment, leading to the auctioning off of your property, for usually lower than the fair market value, in as little as 30 days from the entry of the default judgment. After the clerk of the court sells your home in a public auction, a sheriff will physically evict you and your personal property in as little as 10 days. Many homeowners believe that failing to take any action will allow them to walk away from their oftentimes, underwater homes. However, in many cases, deficiency judgments from the foreclosure sale of the property can haunt borrowers for years, as lenders can garnish your bank accounts or wages as a result. A deficiency judgment is a judgment obtained against a borrower for the debt remaining when the proceeds of a foreclosure sale were insufficient to pay off the foreclosure judgment amounts, which include your principal balance, interest, and legal fees as well. As such, it is critical that you take action in order to preserve your legal rights, your credit, and your future income.
What are Some of My Options?Even if you are facing foreclosure, there are a number of options available. These include: loan modifications, short sales, loan reinstatements, debt forgiveness, etc. For instance, a loan modification can prevent a foreclosure, as it is an agreement with the lender to modify the terms of your mortgage and potentially lower your monthly payments. Lenders oftentimes hesitate to agree to a loan modification; however, an appropriate foreclosure defense strategy can convince lenders to modify the terms of the mortgage an in turn, can save your home. There are also more options available depending on your set of circumstances that you can discuss with a qualified attorney.