Your state’s page in our Summary of State Foreclosure Laws lists references to the laws governing foreclosures in your state. These references are termed citations, and the laws are known as statutes. By using the citation, you can find and read for yourself your state’s laws on such matters as:
- how much notice you are entitled to before your home is sold in a foreclosure
- how much notice you are entitled to before you are evicted after a foreclosure sale
- how much time you have to reinstate or redeem your mortgage after a default
- whether your lender can sue you for a deficiency judgment and if so, under what conditions, and
- what special protections you are entitled to if you have a high-cost mortgage (one with a much higher interest rate than normal).
You can easily locate statutes online or in most states at a law library or even at a public library.
There are two fundamental ways to find your state statutes on foreclosure:
- Once you find a collection of the statutes, you can browse through various levels of subject headings (usually organized hierarchically numbered title, article, chapter, and section).
- You can go to the state law collection at http://www.justia.com/ and search for the keywords you’re interested in.
More information on legal research. Legal research is its own subject; if you want to delve into it more deeply, see Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law, by Stephen Elias and the editors of Nolo (Nolo). My goal here is just to show you how to look up statutes listed in our Summary of State Foreclosure Laws.
Here is an example of the steps you could use to find the Vermont foreclosure statutes by browsing. If you go online and follow along, you’ll pretty much know how to find the same law for your state.
Start by finding the statute’s citation on the Vermont page our Summary of State Foreclosure Laws. The law is called Vermont’s Strict Foreclosure Law, and the citation is Vermont Stat. Ann., Title 12, Section 4526.
Step 1: Go to http://www.justia.com/.
Step 2: Scroll down to Laws: Cases & Codes.
Step 3: Click on Vermont Law.
Step 4: You'll see three Vermont Codes--one for 2005, one for 2009, and another for 2011. For this example, click the link to 2011 Vermont Codes. If you find two or more sets of codes for your state, follow the steps in this example for all of them.
Step 5: Find and click on the relevant title. (For this statute, it’s Title 12.) This opens up a list of chapters.
Step 6: Scroll down until you reach the chapter that contains Section 4526, the section of Vermont’s strict foreclosure statute. It’s Chapter 163 (Chancery Proceedings).
Step 7: Click on Chapter 163.
Step 8: Scroll down to Section 4526, “Foreclosure of real or personal property.” You’re there!
Most other states arrange their statutes in a similar manner: by title, chapter, and section. Use the same method to find the statutes referenced on your state’s page.
Some states arrange their statutes in a slightly different manner. For example, if you were looking for Section 2323.07 of the Ohio Revised Code, you would use the first two numbers to find the correct title (Title 23). Click on that title, and then find the statute numbered 2323.07.
In New York, the citation to the foreclosure laws reads: N.Y. Real Prop. Acts. Law, Sections 1301 to 1391. You would find these statutes by first browsing the list of legal topics until you found “Real Property Actions and Proceedings.” Click on that topic and then browse until you find the article that contains Sections 1301 to 1391 (Action to Foreclose a Mortgage).
Your state may use a slightly different model from any of these. You may have to use a little ingenuity to get to the right statutes. As a general rule, the number at the left of the citation will be the number you use to start your search, whether it is the title, article, or chapter number. If for some reason the citation number doesn’t work, look for a subject heading dealing with foreclosure, real estate, or real property, or if you are in a judicial foreclosure state, civil procedure.
If you are having trouble finding a statute by using the steps outlined just above, tru Google. For instance, by doing an online search for "Vermont's foreclosure statutes," you'll find in your list of results a link to the Vermont Statutes Online on the Vermont State Legislature's website. Clicking on that link will take you to a page listing all of the relevant Vermont foreclosure statutes.
But beware of this method of searching. Quite possibly, you will turn up only one statute at a time. Bankruptcy and foreclosure statutes come in swarms, and you need to be able to see the entire array (called the statutory scheme) to fully understand what you are looking at. For example, if you are looking for statutes dealing with restitution or notice before the foreclosure sale, you may find only one of these statutes and not be aware of the others.