Fast-Track Foreclosures for Abandoned Homes in Maryland

A Maryland law allows for faster foreclosures of homes that are vacant and abandoned.

In Maryland, if you fall behind on your mortgage payments and permanently move out of your home, you might face an expedited foreclosure process. Under the state's fast-track foreclosure law, once your lender shows that you've abandoned the house, the lender can skip many of the preforeclosure and mediation requirements that usually apply in a foreclosure, and the property may be foreclosed in a shortened time period. (To learn details about preforeclosure and mediation requirements, see Maryland Foreclosure Laws and Procedures.)

Read on to learn how a lender can expedite the foreclosure if you move out of the property and what you can do if you’re facing a fast-track foreclosure, but you still live in the home.

Maryland Foreclosures: An Overview

While the most common foreclosure procedure in Maryland is often described as “nonjudicial,” the process is more accurately described as “quasi-judicial” because the court has some control and certain filings are required to ensure that the foreclosure is justified and proper. The regular foreclosure process can take a long time, but Maryland law allows a lender to speed up an uncontested foreclosure if it can prove the property is vacant and abandoned.

How Foreclosures Are Fast-Tracked

To fast-track a foreclosure, the lender has to file a petition with the circuit court. After filing the petition, the lender must send a copy to you (the borrower) at your last known address, as well as the record owner, by certified mail, return receipt requested, and first-class mail. Under the fast-track law, the circuit court then has to rule on the petition promptly after the lender files the petition.

What the Lender Must Prove

To move forward with a fast-track foreclosure, the lender must show that the property and loan must meet all of the following criteria.

  • The loan has been in default for 120 days or more.
  • The borrower hasn’t filed an answer or objection with the court setting forth a defense or objection that, if proven, would preclude the entry of a final judgment and a decree of foreclosure.
  • The borrower hasn’t filed a written statement with the court that the property is not vacant and abandoned.
  • At least three of the circumstances listed below exist regarding the property.

Circumstances That Indicate an Abandoned Property

As part of the petition, the lender must show that three or more of the following conditions are present.

  • Utilities (gas, electric, sewer, or water utility services) to the property have been disconnected.
  • The home’s windows or entrances are boarded up or closed off, or multiple window panes are broken and unrepaired.
  • Doors to the home are smashed through, broken off, unhinged, or continuously unlocked.
  • Junk, litter, trash, debris, or hazardous, noxious, or unhealthy substances or materials have accumulated on the property.
  • Furnishings, window treatments, or personal items are not in the home.
  • The property is the object of vandalism, loitering, or criminal conduct, or there has been physical destruction or deterioration of the property.
  • A borrower has made a written statement expressing the intention to abandon the property.
  • No owner or tenant appears to be living at the property at the time of an inspection.
  • A county or municipal corporation has issued two or more citations against the property for failure to maintain the property, and a health and safety issue exists that has not been rectified.
  • A county or municipal corporation has condemned the property.
  • Any other indication of abandonment.

Notice of the Fast-Track Foreclosure

If the lender wants to fast-track your foreclosure, it must serve you the foreclosure documents along with a notice explaining the right to challenge a finding that the property is abandoned. The lender must serve you the paperwork by giving it to you personally, leaving it with someone of suitable age and discretion at the property or where you live, or by mailing you a copy and posting it on the property. You must file your objection no later than 20 days after service of the notice.

A Fast-Track Foreclosure Can Hurt—or Help—You Depending on the Circumstances

If you still live in your home, a fast-track foreclosure can be a big problem because it means you’ll lose your property much faster than normal. A shortened foreclosure process deprives you of valuable time to work out an alternative to foreclosure, like a modification, or to live in the house without making payments.

On the flip side, if you've permanently moved out of the home, a fast-track foreclosure could help you avoid becoming the victim of a zombie foreclosure.

Consider Talking to a Lawyer

If you’re facing a foreclosure (fast track or regular) and want to challenge the action, consider talking to a local foreclosure lawyer. A foreclosure lawyer can help you file an answer to the foreclosure or a response to a fast-track petition, advise you about potential defenses, represent you in court, and give you information about any other options you might have in your particular circumstances.

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