Frequently Asked Questions

Breaking Down the Basics and Myths of the Foreclosure Process

It can be easy to spiral if you have been served notice of a pending foreclosure lawsuit. You may think you are doomed, or you will definitely lose your home. This does not have to be the case!

If you take swift, focused action, it is possible to defend yourself from foreclosure and limit its negative consequences. Many who suffer the worst impacts of foreclosure do so because they misunderstand how foreclosure works and what options are available to them. Many learn about critical tools too late in the process, cutting them off from crucial relief. At Cremeens Law Group PLLC, we have substantial experience helping clients face the foreclosure process. We can evaluate the details of your situation and advise you on potential legal solutions and defense strategies. Below, we cover some of the most frequently asked questions involving foreclosure in Florida.

If you want to speak to a member of our team and get answers specific to your foreclosure situation, call (813) 683-8688 or contact us online.

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Will I Lose My Home If I Have Been Served a Notice of Foreclosure?

If you do nothing, you will almost certainly lose your home. Your bank or other lending institution will pursue a foreclosure lawsuit once you have defaulted on your mortgage and notice has been delivered. Without objections from you or your legal representation, a court will likely rule in their favor and permit them to carry out a foreclosure auction of the property and will often end up owning the property themselves. You will thus lose ownership of your home, and, in the process, your financial institution will likely pursue eviction proceedings against you.

However, you can significantly delay the foreclosure process if not successfully defend against it if you act quickly and decisively. One of the most important steps of this process is hiring the legal services of qualified foreclosure defense attorneys, like the lawyers who make up the team at Cremeens Law Group PLLC.

I Missed a Payment. Will My Bank Foreclose?

No two situations are exactly alike, but generally, no. Because foreclosure is such an expensive, time-consuming process, banks and other lending institutions would prefer to avoid it, if possible. Most will not initiate foreclosure after a single missed payment or even 2 missed payments. Many will threaten or initiate foreclosure after you miss 3 consecutive payments. Bear in mind that you will be in “breach” of your mortgage agreement after any missed payment and are likely subject to late fees and other penalties if they are written into your agreement. You can try and get ahead of a foreclosure if you know you are going to be late with more than one payment by contacting your financial institution in advance.

How Long Does a Typical Foreclosure Take?

In a scenario where the current property owner does not at any point contest the foreclosure and allows it to continue uninhibited, a foreclosure takes approximately 180 to 200 days in Florida. Again, you can significantly lengthen this duration by taking the necessary steps to object to the foreclosure and pursue defense against it.

I Have Already Been Served a Foreclosure Notice. Is It Too Late to Act?

Absolutely not! Even if you have already been served a foreclosure notice or summons, you still have options for pursuing relief or negotiating with your bank or financial institution. However, the sooner you act, the more options you will have. Employing the services of foreclosure defense lawyers is a great first step in defending against foreclosure, as they can expediently act on your behalf to slow or stop the foreclosure process.

How Long Do I Have to Respond to a Foreclosure Notice?

Once you have been served a notice of foreclosure, you will only have 20 days to respond. If you fail to do this, you are endangering the risk of losing your home and will lose access to numerous means of relief, as your lender will most likely be able to obtain a “default judgment” from the court absent your answer. This allows them to automatically win the foreclosure suit and proceed with a sale, accelerating the process and giving you less time and fewer options to respond.

If I Lose My Home in a Foreclosure Sale, Will I Still Owe Anything to My Bank?

In some cases, yes. Florida does allow what are called “deficiency judgments,” in which a mortgage debtor is on the hook for the difference between the price of a property’s auction sale and the outstanding balance on the loan. Say you still owe $50,000 on the property in question, but the bank is only able to sell the home for $35,000 at the public auction. You would then still owe the bank the remaining $15,000. This can be a worst-case scenario, as you both lose your home and still owe money, but experienced foreclosure lawyers can help defend you against deficiency judgments and negotiate with your lending institution.

Can Bankruptcy Protect Me from Foreclosure?

Yes. Filing for either form of consumer bankruptcy will initiate a court-ordered “automatic stay,” freezing any ongoing collections actions, which includes foreclosure. This will halt any foreclosure lawsuit in progress or prevent your financial institution from initiating one.

This does not eliminate your mortgage obligations, however. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your home may be subject to the liquidation process, where nonexempt assets are sold (or “liquidated”) to create funds to repay creditors. The state of Florida has one of the most generous homestead exemptions in the country, making it fairly easy to protect your home from liquidation.

In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your debts are reorganized in a single, court-approved repayment plan. This will include your mortgage obligations. You will continue with this payment plan for a period of 3 to 5 years, and your financial institution will not be able to pursue foreclosure against you so long as you continue to make your payments. In many cases, you can negotiate with your bank at the conclusion of the repayment plan; in others, you will still need to repay the remaining balance, as mortgage loans are not an “unsecured debt” that you can discharge at the conclusion of bankruptcy. Our bankruptcy attorneys at Cremeens Law Group PLLC can help decide if bankruptcy makes sense for your overall financial situation or as a means of halting foreclosure.

I Want to Contact or Negotiate with my Creditor. How Do I Know Who to Contact?

Contact information, including a mailing address and phone number, should be available on your mortgage statement, either online or on a physical paper copy. Note that there is a difference between a “lender,” who qualifies you for the mortgage when you initially close, and a “servicer,” who collects your monthly payments. You will want to contact the servicer to negotiate your mortgage agreement, ideally via your legal representation, whether you are seeking a loan modification, deed in lieu of foreclosure, cash for keys, a short sale, or any other potential compromise to avoid foreclosure.

Can I Buy My Home Outright After Foreclosure Has Begun?

Yes, in most circumstances. “Right of redemption,” or the act of paying off a property’s debt and “redeeming” the property from foreclosure, is available in all states before a foreclosure sale is conducted. This means if you are able to gather sufficient funds, you can stop a foreclosure sale before it happens by purchasing the property outright, covering the principle balance and other fees.

In Florida, there are also circumstances in which you can redeem a property after a foreclosure sale. You can acquire the property from the individual or business entity that bought the home at the purchase price; in some cases, you will still need to pay the entirety of the mortgage debt, plus fees. You only have a narrow window to redeem after a sale, however, as the transaction must occur before a clerk files the certificate of sale. Sometimes, a foreclosure judgment will include a specific time limit on when redemptions can occur.

How Does the Florida COVID-19 Foreclosure Moratorium Impact Me?

On March 13, 2020, a grand majority of the state of Florida’s courts shut down in-person operations as a means to fight the spread of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. All nonessential court activity, including hearings for foreclosures and evictions, was effectively suspended. Florida Governor DeSantis soon issued an Executive Order, Mortgage Foreclosure and Eviction Relief, which, as its title would imply, placed a moratorium on the initiation or continuation of all foreclosure and eviction proceedings. No matter the circumstances, foreclosures and evictions could not be undertaken or completed. As COVID-19 continued to spread, Governor DeSantis signed several extensions to this moratorium, and the relevant courts remained closed.

As of August 1, 2020, a statewide foreclosure and eviction moratorium is still in place. However, it is no longer a blanket ban, and you must now meet eligibility requirements to qualify. New language requires borrowers to repay mortgage or rental debts once they are “no longer adversely affected by the COVID-19 emergency.” In other words, you must have experienced a loss of significant reduction of income as a result of COVID-19, whether that be through a lost job or hours due to state-mandated business shutdowns or significant time away from work as a result of fighting the illness. Additionally, mortgage protections are now limited to single-family homes. This revised moratorium is scheduled to expire on September 1, 2020, and it is unclear if Governor DeSantis will extend or continue to modify its terms.

Do I Need an Attorney to Assist with My Foreclosure Situation?

While it is possible to defend against foreclosure without the assistance of legal representation, the reality is the court and regulatory systems involved make the process challenging to navigate, especially when the stakes and pressure are so high. Experienced foreclosure defense attorneys, like the ones who make up our team at Cremeens Law Group PLLC, can give you the relief you need. We have a full understanding of Florida’s foreclosure laws and are responsive to new changes introduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. You should not have to fight to save your home alone, and with our legal services on your side, you will not have to.

Get all of your foreclosure questions answered by scheduling an initial consultation with our team. Dial (813) 683-8688 or contact us online to get started.

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