Deficiency Judgments After Foreclosure in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, if the foreclosure sale price is less than the amount you owe on the mortgage, the lender can come after you for the remaining balance.

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With both nonjudicial and judicial foreclosures in Rhode Island, the foreclosing lender can come after you for the difference (called the "deficiency") if the foreclosure sale price is less than the amount you owe on the mortgage. Read on to learn what a deficiency judgment is, when your mortgage lender can collect one against you in Rhode Island, and what happens to the deficiency in a short sale or a deed in lieu of foreclosure in Rhode Island.

(For more articles on foreclosure in Rhode Island, visit our Rhode Island Foreclosure Law Center.)

What Is a Deficiency After Foreclosure?

When a lender forecloses on a mortgage, the total debt owed by the borrowers to the lender frequently exceeds the foreclosure sale price. The difference between the sale price and the total debt is called a deficiency.

Example. Say the total debt owed is $200,000, but the home only sells for $150,000 at the foreclosure sale. The deficiency is $50,000.

In some states, the lender can seek a personal judgment against the debtor to recover the deficiency. Generally, once the lender gets a deficiency judgment, the lender may collect this amount (in our example, $50,000) from the borrowers by doing such things as garnishing the borrowers’ wages or levying the borrowers’ bank account. (Learn about methods that creditors can use to collect judgments.)

(To learn more about deficiency judgments in the foreclosure context, see our Deficiency Judgments After Foreclosure area.)

Deficiency Judgments Are Allowed in Rhode Island

Most residential foreclosures in Rhode Island are nonjudicial, which means the lender does not have to go through state court to get one. (However, sometimes Rhode Island foreclosures are judicial and go through the state court system. To learn more about the difference between judicial and nonjudicial foreclosure, and the procedures for each, see Will Your Foreclosure Take Place In or Out of Court?)

Learn more about the Rhode Island foreclosure process.

In Rhode Island, deficiency judgments are allowed following nonjudicial foreclosures if the lender files a separate lawsuit. Deficiency judgments are also permitted in judicial foreclosures.

Junior Mortgage Holders May File Suit Too

Generally, when a senior lienholder forecloses, any junior liens (these would include second mortgages and HELOCs, among others) are also foreclosed and those junior lienholders lose their security interest in the real estate. If a junior mortgage holder has been sold-out in this manner, that junior mortgage holder can sue you personally on the promissory note. This means that if the equity in your home doesn’t cover second and third mortgages, you may face lawsuits from those lenders to collect the balance of the loans.

Learn more in our article What Happens to Liens and Second Mortgages in Foreclosure?

Deficiency After a Short Sale in Rhode Island

A short sale is when you sell your home for less than the total debt balance remaining on your mortgage and the proceeds of the sale pay off a portion of the mortgage balance. (Learn more about short sales to avoid foreclosure.)

In Rhode Island, a lender can get a deficiency judgment following a short sale. To avoid a deficiency judgment, the short sale agreement must expressly state that the lender waives its right to the deficiency. If the short sale agreement does not contain this waiver, the lender may file a lawsuit to obtain a deficiency judgment.

Deficiency After a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure in Rhode Island

A deed in lieu of foreclosure occurs when a lender agrees to accept a deed to the property instead of foreclosing in order to obtain title. With a deed in lieu of foreclosure, the deficiency amount is the difference between the fair market value of the property and the total debt. (Learn more about deeds in lieu of foreclosure.)

In Rhode Island, a lender can get a deficiency judgment following a deed in lieu of foreclosure. To avoid a deficiency judgment with a deed in lieu of foreclosure, the agreement must expressly state that the transaction is in full satisfaction of the debt. If the deed in lieu of foreclosure agreement does not contain this provision, the lender may file a lawsuit to obtain a deficiency judgment against you.

Rhode Island Foreclosure Law

To find the Rhode Island statutes, go to the State of Rhode Island General Assembly’s webpage at www.rilin.state.ri.us. Click on “Legislation” and then “The State of Rhode Island General Laws.” The statutes that govern foreclosures can be found in Title 34 (Property), Chapter 34-27 (Mortgage Foreclosure and Sale).

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