Wisconsin Foreclosure Law and Procedure
Read about the steps in a Wisconsin foreclosure, including your rights along the way.
May 18, 2016
Wisconsin’s foreclosure process, once officially started, usually takes between 11 and 18 months. The speed of a Wisconsin foreclosure depends on how active the homeowner is during the foreclosure process, whether the lender is seeking a deficiency judgment, whether the property is abandoned, and a host of other factors. The article below provides an overview of Wisconsin foreclosure laws. (For more articles on foreclosure in Wisconsin, visit our Wisconsin Foreclosure Law Center.)
How Foreclosures Start in Wisconsin
A mortgage lender cannot foreclose on your home in Wisconsin unless you default under the contract. Usually that means failing to make payments. Most lenders give borrowers a 10 to 15 day grace period to make monthly payments. In most cases, on day 16, the lender will issue a late charge.
Before the Foreclosure Begins
Under federal regulations that went into effect on January 10, 2014, the lender must wait until you are more than 120 days delinquent on the mortgage loan obligation before officially starting a foreclosure in court. This 120-day period is designed to give delinquent borrowers sufficient time to explore ways to avoid a foreclosure.
The Foreclosure Complaint
In Wisconsin, foreclosures are judicial, meaning lenders must go through the courts in order to foreclose on your home. (In some states, called nonjudicial foreclosure states, lenders don’t have to go through the court system to foreclose.) The lender or mortgage servicer files a summons and complaint in court. Most lenders will also file a lis pendens -- a document filed with the county’s Recorder of Deeds that identifies the property and describes the foreclosure action. If the lender is seeking a deficiency judgment against you (the right to collect any money still due after sale of the home), it will include this request in the complaint.
The Answer to the Complaint
Once you receive the foreclosure complaint, you have 20 days to file a formal answer in court. The answer is your opportunity to address each allegation in the complaint, which means you can deny those that you believe are inaccurate. You may also bring up defenses against the foreclosure and claims you may have against the lender. (To learn more, see our Fighting Foreclosure in Court topic area.)
Requesting Foreclosure Mediation
Wisconsin’s Department of Justice and Attorney General have helped establish a Wisconsin Foreclosure Mediation Network. In addition, several counties in Wisconsin have their own mediation programs. In foreclosure mediation, you and the lender try to come up with an alternative to foreclosure that benefits both you and the lender. Solutions might include a loan modification, repayment or forbearance agreement, short sale, or deed in lieu of foreclosure. (Learn more about these options in our Alternatives to Foreclosure topic area.)
For most of these programs, the lender must attach to the complaint a notice of availability of mediation and an application for mediation. It is possible that if a lender fails to properly attach the proper mediation notice forms, you might be able to challenge the complaint.
To learn more about these programs, see Foreclosure Mediation Programs in Wisconsin.
The Right to Cure
Before the lender has obtained a judgment, borrowers have the right to cure any defaults by paying all amounts past due plus the lender’s attorneys fees and costs.
The Judgment for Foreclosure
The lender must wait 20 days from the filing of a lis pendens before getting a judgment of foreclosure. There are three ways that a lender can obtain a foreclosure judgment.
- Default judgment. If you don’t file an answer to the foreclosure complaint within 20 days, the lender will seek a default judgment.
- Summary Judgment. If you file an answer, but the judge nonetheless finds the foreclosure should proceed, the Court will usually enter summary judgment in favor of the lender.
- Judgment after trial. If the case goes to trial, and the lender wins, the lender will get a foreclosure judgment.
The Right to Redemption
In Wisconsin, you have the right to redeem the property if you act within a certain period of time. To redeem the property you must pay the entire value of the outstanding mortgage debt plus the lender’s attorneys’ fees and costs.
When You Can Redeem
Regardless of the type of judgment (default, summary, or judgment after trial), the redemption period begins with the entry of judgment and can last for varying amounts of time:
- Abandoned property -- five weeks if the property is abandoned.
- Unabandoned property where the lender waives deficiency -- six months if the property is not abandoned and the lender waived its right to seek a deficiency judgment.
- Unabanonded property where the lender seeks a deficiency -- twelve months if the property is not abandoned and the lender has not waived its right to seek a deficiency judgment.
In Wisconsin, if the property can be divided into parcels, it is possible to redeem part of the property by making a motion to the court with appropriate notice, or by agreement with the lender.
Other Options During the Redemption Period
During the redemption period, a borrower may refinance, sell the property to pay off the amount due to the lender, or with the lender’s permission, engage in a short sale (a sale of the property for less than the full amount owed).
The Sheriff’s Sale
After the lender gets a judgment, it must publish a notice of sale before it can sell the property. In most instances the lender must wait a certain period of time before it can do so. Here are the rules:
- Abandoned properties -- may publish the notice of sale immediately after judgment
- Properties that are not abandoned where the lender is waiving a deficiency -- four months if waiving the deficiency.
- Properties that are not abandoned where the lender seeks a deficiency -- may publish the notice of sale ten months after entry of judgment.
For the most part, the lender must publish the notice for three weeks and it must follow certain procedures as to the manner of publication. The sale, which is open to the public, can only be held after the applicable redemption period has expired.
Confirmation of Sale
A confirmation of sale is a hearing where the court makes sure there was no foul play or misconduct and confirms the propriety and validity of the sale. Borrowers must receive at least five days' notice of this hearing before it takes place.
Eviction of the Borrower
Once the court approves the sale, if a homeowner has not voluntarily left the property, lenders may file a verified petition (a sworn request to the court) for a writ of assistance to obtain possession (this is an order from the court directing the sheriff to assist with obtaining possession). Homeowners must be served with at least ten days’ notice of when and where the petition will be presented. Once a writ of assistance is granted, the date and time of eviction depends mostly upon the sheriff’s office. At that stage, the best way to find out the date and time of the eviction is to contact the sheriff’s office or the lender.