When one is facing a potential foreclosure, having a thorough understanding of the Florida foreclosure process is important. This knowledge is useful not only for understanding how to move forward, but for reducing the fear associated with a foreclosure action as well. To educate individuals in this situation, we have narrowed the standard process down to 10 steps.
Step 1: Borrower Begins Missing Payments
Without a missed payment, there cannot be a foreclosure. Therefore, the process itself begins with the first payment that goes unmade. Initially, the debtor should receive a notice of the missed payment, and likely will incur late fees as a result. If the skipped payment is a one-time situation, the process should not move further. However, if a change to the borrower’s financial situation that will not soon be resolved is to blame for falling behind on payments, foreclosure could be in his or her future.
Step 2: Pre-Foreclosure Loss Mitigation Period
A foreclosure lawsuit cannot be filed until the debtor has been delinquent for at least 120 days. Up until then, the lenders only option for recovering the debt is to issue a breach letter and contact the borrower. During this period, the debtor should discuss any potential loss mitigation options with the loan servicer, such as a loan modification, a short sale, and so forth. The guidance of an attorney is recommended during this phase.
Step 3: Meeting With Foreclosure Defense Attorney
If a foreclosure alternative is accepted, the process could be brought to a halt at any step. Therefore, meeting with a foreclosure defense attorney early on is advisable for debtors seeking to avoid having a foreclosure on their record. While an alternative is not always viable, exploring such options is always beneficial. At the very least, a lawyer can represent the borrower’s interests throughout the process and ensure the best possible outcome.
Step 4: Lender Issues Notice of Default
This step begins the foreclosure process, notifying the debtor that a civil complaint has been made against them. Essentially, it officially declares that the borrower is in default due to the missed mortgage payments.
Step 5: Filing of the Summons and Complaint
Next, the Summons and Complaint will be filed with a lis pendens, which indicates that litigation is pending. This formally begins the judicial foreclosure process, which means the action will be publicly recorded. The complaint is usually hand-delivered by the sheriff of the county where the homeowner resides.
Step 6: Debtor Answers
The defendant in the foreclosure case will have 20 days to provide an answer to the complaint, which must be filed with the clerk of court. This is where a defense can be raised, and thus it is advisable for the debtor to have this drafted by an experienced foreclosure defense attorney. Without an answer, the process will proceed to the summary judgement without the borrower having the opportunity to plead his or her case.
Step 7: Motion for Summary Judgment
At this point, the lender will likely motion for a summary judgment to avoid formal court proceedings. If the judge rules in favor of this motion, whether because the defendant did not file the answer in time or it was deemed to be insufficient, both parties can present their cases in the summary judgment hearing. Upon this hearings conclusion, a judgment will be issued.
Step 8: Foreclosure Trial
If the motion for summary judgment is not granted, the foreclosure trial will commence. If the defendant has not already done so, it is advisable to enlist an attorney to plead his or her case. Once both sides present their arguments, the foreclosure judge will issue a ruling.
Step 9: Foreclosure Sale
If the judgment is in favor of the lender, the property will be scheduled to be sold at auction, which typically occurs a few weeks later. Once it sells, the title will be issued to the new owner and the debtor will be evicted from the home.
Step 10: Deficiency Judgment
In the state of Florida, lenders have the option to seek a deficiency judgment for the dollar amount that was not covered by the property’s sale price. If the debtor has enlisted a qualified attorney, this step could be avoided.
If you are struggling to keep up with mortgage payments and have questions about the Florida foreclosure process, our foreclosure defense attorneys can help. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.