In Florida, the timeline for foreclosure varies widely. In cases where the homeowner does not hire an attorney the timeline is approximately 6 months after you stop making monthly mortgage payments. When the homeowner hires an attorney the timeline can stretch beyond 4 years. Read on to see exactly what happens and when.
Timeline For Foreclosure: Pre-Foreclosure Period
The process begins when you, the holder of the mortgage, are late with payments. You are still living in your house at this time. Here is what happens before the legal timeline for foreclosure starts ticking:
Mortgage and Note
Two of the documents that you signed when you purchased your home were the Mortgage and the Note. The Mortgage states that your property is security for the debt owed to the bank. The Note is your promise to pay. The Mortgage is the legal document the bank will use to reclaim your home if you default in your payments.
Notice of Default
When you fail to make the payments as promised, the mortgage lender will file a civil action Complaint against you by sending you a written Notice of Default. Basically, this notice means you have defaulted on the signed contract – the mortgage agreement – on your home.
The Notice of Default marks the beginning of the foreclosure timeline. All in all, the typical timeline for foreclosure in Florida for people who do not hire a knowledgeable foreclosure defense attorney is approximately 6 months.
The Litigation Timeline for Foreclosure
Filing of the Summons and Complaint with Lis Pendens
The first legal action the lender will take is to file a Summons and Complaint with a ‘lis pendens.” Lis Pendens is Latin and means “Litigation Pending.” The Lis Pendens declares that the mortgage lender has sued you (the homeowner) and intends to take your home. This paperwork is filed by the lender in the County Courthouse and is recorded in the Public Records.
You are then served with the Summons and Complaint, which begins the lawsuit against you. You will be given a short time to Answer.
The Summons and Service of Process (10 to 20 days)
The Summons is the document that states your rights and responsibilities in the lawsuit.
So far, the Lis Pendens and the Complaint have been filed. What happens next in the timeline for foreclosure is you will be served with a copy of the Complaint, the Lis Pendens and the Summons. Usually this is hand-delivered by the County Sheriff. If you try to avoid the sheriff, the lender will use other ways to get service of process, such as publishing it in a local newspaper.
The Answer (20 days)
Once you receive the summons and complaint, you will have 20 days to respond to it. To respond, you file an Answer with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. This Answer should be a legally acceptable response to the charges that have been filed against you in the Complaint. Each defendant must serve a separate Answer unless represented by counsel.
This is a critical step in the timeline for foreclosure. The Answer is your chance to show why you should not have been foreclosed upon and to raise your defenses. It may be filed by you or your Attorney. Filing a sufficient answer makes certain that a Clerk’s Default and a Default Judgment won’t be filed against you without an opportunity to be heard.
If you file an Answer, a date for a hearing is set. At the hearing, the lender’s attorney will be present and you may explain to the judge why you defaulted on your payments and present your defenses.
If you do not file an Answer, you may lose your chance to demonstrate your side of the case before the judge, and a Final Judgment may be entered against you.
The Preliminary Hearing
Next in the timeline for foreclosure is the preliminary hearing. You state your case and the judge will rule what to do next. If you have a legitimate Answer, the judge may ask the lender to allow you time to work things out. If your Answer was not sufficient, the judge will rule for the lender and the foreclosure will go forward.
If you did not file an Answer within the 20 day timeframe – or if the judge rules against you at the hearing – the lender’s lawyer will get on the fast track to take your home by setting a Motion for a Summary Judgment Hearing. This hearing will be before the judge, and will happen within a few days or weeks.
The Summary Judgment Hearing (45 days)
During the Summary Judgment hearing, the attorney for the lender will make the case against you. You may testify to dispute materials facts in the case. The best chance you have to succeed in a defense at this point is to provide proof of payment. Otherwise, the judge probably will rule against you and allow the lender to foreclose on the Mortgage and sell your home.
The amount of money the lender claims will be added up against you and put into a Final Summary Judgment, containing all damages including the principal, interest, penalties, court expense and attorney fees.
Timeline for Foreclosure After the Summary Judgment Hearing
Foreclosure Sale Date (75 days)
The foreclosure sale date will typically be scheduled 30-45 days after the entry of the Judgment. It is at this point during the timeline for foreclosure that the house is auctioned and sold on the Courthouse steps. Occasionally this date can be extended for holidays or by agreement with the mortgage lender.
Redemption by Junior Lien Holders
If the judge allows, junior lien holders can redeem (buy back) the property, up to the time of the confirmation of the sale (foreclosure auction). This basically means the homeowner can save the property from foreclosure if they come up with the money before the foreclosure sale of the property is confirmed – usually about 10 days.
Judicial Sale, Advertisement and Certificate of Title
The foreclosure must occur as specified in the court order. If any legal notice, publication or advertisement about your foreclosure is required to be listed in a newspaper, the responsibility to do so is placed on the lender.
If the terms of the court order are met, the property title in the name of the buyer can be completed by filing a Certificate of Title.
In Florida, the lender may sue to get a deficiency judgment. This happens if the foreclosure sale did not produce enough money to fully pay the Final Judgment.
The Tancredo Law Firm has represented thousands of individuals in Florida Foreclosure over the past 20 years.
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