Some states have “fast-track” laws that speed up the foreclosure process in cases where the homeowner has abandoned the home (left the home for good). Unfortunately, sometimes a lender will initiate a fast-track foreclosure on a home you still live in, which means you could lose your house much faster than you otherwise would -- unless you fight the expedited foreclosure.
Read on to learn more about how the fast-track process works, why a fast-track foreclosure is a problem if you still occupy the property, and what you can do to protect yourself if your lender has improperly started a fast-track foreclosure against your home.
A foreclosure can take a long time, especially in states where the process is judicial (where the foreclosure goes through the court system). It is not unusual for a foreclosure to take a year or longer in some places. (Learn more about which states have lengthy foreclosure timelines in States With Long Foreclosure Timelines.)
The longer the foreclosure takes, the more likely it is that the homeowner will move out before the process ends. This means the home could be vacant for an extended period of time while the foreclosure works its way through the court system. During this time, the home is susceptible to deterioration and vandalism.
If the homeowner has vacated the property, a fast-track foreclosure can be good for the community. There is less time for the home to fall into disrepair and for vandals to cause damage, both of which can drag down the value of the entire neighborhood. Also, a fast-track foreclosure can be a good thing for you (the homeowner) if you’ve voluntarily vacated the home since it means you won’t become the victim of a zombie foreclosure.
However, if you still occupy the home, a fast-track foreclosure can be a big problem since it means you’ll lose your home much faster than normal. This deprives you of valuable time to work out an alternative to foreclosure or simply live in the home without making payments. (Learn how staying in your home as long as possible can save you money.)
It’s typically pretty easy for the foreclosing lender to move forward with a fast-track foreclosure. While the process is different in each state that has a fast-track foreclosure law, this is how it generally works.
Once approved for a fast-track foreclosure, the foreclosure typically takes only a few months instead of, perhaps, years.
If you want to protect yourself from a fast-track foreclosure, you’ll have to do all of the following things.
To fight a fast-track foreclosure, you must meet all deadlines to object to a finding that you abandoned the home. For example, you may have to submit written evidence or objections to the court within a certain time period (generally prior to a hearing).
Before the court will allow the lender to proceed with a fast-track foreclosure there is usually a hearing to determine if you abandoned the home. If you fail to go to the hearing, the court will probably declare the home abandoned and allow the lender to expedite the foreclosure. However, if you go to the hearing and prove to the court that you still occupy the home, you won’t lose it to a fast-track foreclosure.
You might not get much time to prepare for the hearing. In Illinois, the hearing may take place as soon as 14 days after you receive notice that the lender has asked a judge to find that you abandoned the home. In Oklahoma, the homeowner gets as little as 15 days between receiving notice of the hearing and the hearing date.
To stop the fast-track foreclosure, you’ll have to prove that you still occupy the home. This means you’ll have to present evidence of non-abandonment, such as the fact that you receive mail at the address, the utilities are in your name, and you have personal belongings in the home.
Certain things are generally considered signs of an abandoned home under fast-track foreclosure laws. If you want to refute the lender’s assertion that you abandoned the home (or ensure that the lender doesn’t mistake your home for abandoned in the first place) there are some steps you can take.
In most cases, you won’t get a lot of time to fight a fast-track foreclosure and it can be a complicated process. If the foreclosing lender is asking a court to declare your home abandoned, but you still reside there, it is recommended that you consult with an experienced foreclosure attorney in your state to discuss your rights and how to enforce them. (Learn more about how to find and hire an attorney in Nolo’s Foreclosure Lawyers & Other Foreclosure Help area.)