All states require that you get at least some notice before your house is sold because of foreclosure. See our Summary of State Foreclosure Laws for information on what kind of notice you can expect to receive.
If it’s a judicial foreclosure (one that goes through court), you’ll be given at least some time, typically between 15 and 30 days, to respond to the court complaint that starts the foreclosure lawsuit. And in some judicial foreclosure states, you’ll get at least a little notice both before the complaint itself (a notice of intent to begin foreclosure proceedings) is filed. Also, in some of these states the court, when it approves the foreclosure, orders that a “notice of sale” be published, giving you a little extra time to move.
You also get some pre-sale notice for nonjudicial foreclosures. Most states require between 20 and 30 days or as much as four months. In some states, including California, you get two notices: one giving you a period of time to make up the missed payments (cure the default) and a second one (notice of sale) giving you the date of sale in the event you haven’t caught up on the payments.
In most states, in addition to mailing you this notice by certified or first-class mail, the foreclosing entity must publish a notice in the “legal notices” section of a local newspaper of general circulation. (This is an admittedly weird concept that assumes you read the legal notices section.)
Scammers do read the legal notices. Once a formal notice of foreclosure is published, recorded at the local land records office, or filed in court, it’s public knowledge that the homeowner is in financial trouble. Con artists may try to prey upon you, knowing that you’re under stress. Don’t fall for a foreclosure “rescue” scam. (How to spot risky deals and outright crooks is discussed in our article on avoiding foreclosure rescue scammers.)
It is also a common requirement that the foreclosing party post notices on the courthouse door and in other public places. In fact, in a few states, this is the only notice you may get. This is a little less weird than the legal notices publication, at least in small communities. At least one of your neighbors, if not you, are likely to see a notice posted in a public place and hop on the phone to you at the first opportunity.
Many people facing foreclosure are like the proverbial deer in the headlights: stunned and unable to react quickly. Don’t be one of them. This notice period gives you precious time to plan a strategy that is most advantageous to you.
If you or a family member is on active military duty, you have some extra protections, including the right to demand that a judge pass on the merits of the foreclosure even if you are living in a state where nonjudicial foreclosures are the norm. (The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is discussed in our article on special protections for active service members.)
|Extra Protections If You Have a High-Cost Mortgage|
The states listed below have special rules for foreclosures when you have a high-cost mortgage. Each state defines high-cost mortgages differently, but typically they are mortgages where interest and prepayment penalties are significantly higher than those being charged for standard mortgages.
Generally, these laws require lenders to give you more notice before foreclosure, and there may be more lenient reinstatement rules. If you are in one of the states listed below, check your state’s page in our Summary of State Foreclosure Laws. You’ll find a brief summary of what constitutes a high-cost mortgage where you live, the protections you’re entitled to, and a citation that will help you find the statute if you want to look it up.