If you lose your home through foreclosure in Tennessee and the sale proceeds don't cover the remaining balance on your mortgage, your lender can come after you for the "deficiency."
Read on to learn what a deficiency judgment is, how much your mortgage lender can collect against you in Tennessee, and what happens to the deficiency in a short sale or a deed in lieu of foreclosure in Tennessee.
(For more articles on foreclosure in Tennessee, visit our Tennessee Foreclosure Law Center.)
When a lender forecloses on a mortgage, the total debt owed by the borrowers to that 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.)
The majority of foreclosures in Tennessee are nonjudicial, which means the lender does not have to go through state court to get one. However, sometimes foreclosures in Tennessee 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 Tennessee foreclosure process.
Deficiency judgments are allowed with both nonjudical and judicial foreclosures in Tennessee. The amount of the deficiency judgment will generally be the difference between the total debt and the foreclosure sale price. However, if the borrower proves that the property sold for an amount materially less than fair market value at the foreclosure sale, then the deficiency judgment will be limited to the total debt minus the fair market value of the property at the time of the sale (Tenn. Code Ann. § 35-5-118).
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 lienholder has been sold-out in this manner, that junior lienholder can sue the borrower 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?
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 Tennessee, 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.
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 Tennessee, 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.
To find the Tennessee foreclosure statutes, go to www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/tncode. The relevant statutes can be found in Title 35 (Fiduciaries and Trust Estates), Chapter 5 (Judicial or Trust Sales).