Georgia Foreclosure Laws and Procedures

How does the foreclosure process work in Georgia? Find out here.

By , Attorney University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Updated 10/17/2023

Before the foreclosure crisis, federal and state laws regulating mortgage servicers and foreclosure procedures were relatively limited and tended to favor foreclosing lenders. However, federal and state laws now heavily regulate loan servicing and foreclosure processes. Most of the laws give protections to borrowers. Servicers generally have to provide borrowers with loss mitigation opportunities, account for each foreclosure step, and strictly comply with foreclosure laws.

Also, most people who take out a loan to buy a residential property in Georgia sign a promissory note and a security deed, which is like a mortgage. These documents give homeowners some contractual rights in addition to federal and state legal protections.

So, don't get caught off guard if you're a Georgia homeowner behind in mortgage payments. Learn about each step in a Georgia foreclosure, from missing your first payment to a foreclosure sale.

What Are My Rights During Foreclosure in Georgia?

In a Georgia foreclosure, you'll most likely get the right to:

  • a preforeclosure breach letter
  • apply for loss mitigation
  • receive a foreclosure notice
  • get current on the loan and stop the foreclosure sale
  • receive special protections if you're in the military
  • pay off the loan to prevent a sale
  • file for bankruptcy, and
  • get any excess money after a foreclosure sale.

Once you understand the Georgia foreclosure process and your rights, you can make the most of your situation and, hopefully, work out a way to save your home or at least get through the process with as little anxiety as possible.

What Is Preforeclosure?

The period after you fall behind in payments, but before a foreclosure officially starts, is generally called the "preforeclosure" stage. (Sometimes, people refer to the period before a foreclosure sale happens as "preforeclosure," too.)

During this time, the servicer can charge you various fees, including late and inspection fees, and, in most cases, must let you know how to avoid foreclosure, and send you a breach letter.

When Can a Georgia Foreclosure Start?

Under federal law, the servicer usually can't start a foreclosure until the borrower is over 120 days delinquent on payments, subject to a few exceptions. (12 C.F.R. § 1024.41). This 120-day period provides most homeowners ample opportunity to submit a loss mitigation application to the servicer.

What Are the Different Types of Foreclosures in Georgia?

If you default on your mortgage payments in Georgia, the lender may foreclose using a judicial or nonjudicial method.

How Do Judicial Foreclosures Work in Georgia?

A judicial foreclosure begins when the lender files a lawsuit asking a court for an order allowing a foreclosure sale. If you don't respond with a written answer, the lender will automatically win the case. But if you choose to defend the foreclosure lawsuit, the court will review the evidence and determine the winner. If the lender wins, the judge will enter a judgment and order your home sold at auction.

How Do Nonjudicial Foreclosures Work?

If the lender chooses a nonjudicial foreclosure, it must complete the out-of-court procedures set out in the state statutes and described in detail below. After completing the required steps, the lender can sell the home at a foreclosure sale.

Most lenders opt for the nonjudicial process because it's quicker and cheaper than litigating the matter in court.

What Are the Steps Involved in the Nonjudicial Foreclosure Process in Georgia?

Again, most residential foreclosures in Georgia are nonjudicial. Here's how the process works.

Notice of Intent to Foreclose in Georgia

Under Georgia law, no later than 30 days before the date of the scheduled foreclosure sale, the lender must send you a notice of the initiation of proceedings to exercise a power of sale (that is, notice of the nonjudicial foreclosure). The notice must be sent via registered mail, certified mail, or overnight delivery, return receipt requested, to the property address or to any other address you've designated by written notice to the lender. (Ga. Code Ann. § 44-14-162.2).

The notice will include, among other things, the name, address, and telephone number of the individual or entity with full authority to negotiate, amend, and modify all terms of the mortgage, which is generally the loan servicer. It will also usually include a copy of the published advertisement (see below). (Ga. Code Ann. §§ 44-14-162, 44-14-162.2).

Ten-Day Attorneys' Fees Notice

The lender's attorney will also usually send a notice informing you that you have ten days from the receipt of such notice to pay the principal and interest without incurring attorneys' fees. (Ga. Code Ann. § 13-1-11). This notice is often included with the 30-day notice.

Publication of the Notice of Sale

The foreclosure sale must be advertised in a newspaper in the county where the property is located once a week for four weeks before the scheduled sale date. (Ga. Code Ann. § 9-13-140).

How Does a Foreclosure Sale Work in Georgia?

Foreclosure sales are generally held at the county courthouse on the first Tuesday of the month unless that day is New Year's Day or the 4th of July, in which case foreclosures are held on the Wednesday of that week, between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (Ga. Code Ann. § 9-13-161).

At the sale, the lender usually makes a credit bid. The lender can bid up to the total amount owed, including fees and costs, or it may bid less. In some states, when the lender is the high bidder at the sale but bids less than the total debt, it can get a deficiency judgment against the borrower, subject to some limitations (see below). If the lender is the highest bidder, the property becomes "Real Estate Owned" (REO).

But if a bidder, say a third party, is the highest bidder and offers more than you owe, and the sale results in excess proceeds (money over and above what's needed to pay off all the liens on your property), you're entitled to that surplus money.

What Are the Options Available for Borrowers During Foreclosure in Georgia?

A few potential ways to stop a foreclosure and keep your home include reinstating the loan, redeeming the property, or filing for bankruptcy. If you can arrange a loss mitigation option, like a loan modification, that will also stop a foreclosure.

Or you might be able to work out a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure and avoid foreclosure. But you'll have to give up your home.

Reinstating the Loan in Georgia

Georgia law doesn't provide a statutory right to reinstate the loan prior to the sale, except for high-cost home loans.

But many security deed contracts, like the uniform Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Security Deed, provide the borrower the right to cure the default after acceleration and reinstate the loan. Check your loan documents to find out if you get a reinstatement right and, if so, the deadline to complete one.

Does Georgia Have a Redemption Period After Foreclosure?

One way to stop a foreclosure is by "redeeming" the property. To redeem, you must pay off the full loan amount before the foreclosure sale.

Some states also provide foreclosed borrowers a redemption period after the foreclosure sale, during which they can buy back the home. However, Georgia law doesn't give borrowers a statutory right of redemption after a nonjudicial foreclosure. Once your Georgia home has been foreclosed, you can't redeem it.

Filing for Bankruptcy to Stop a Georgia Foreclosure

If you're facing a foreclosure, filing for bankruptcy might help. In fact, if a foreclosure sale is scheduled to occur in the next day or so, the best way to stop the sale immediately is by filing for bankruptcy. Once you file for bankruptcy, something called an "automatic stay" goes into effect. The stay functions as an injunction, which prohibits the lender from foreclosing on your home or otherwise trying to collect its debt, at least temporarily.

In many cases, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can delay the foreclosure by a matter of months. Or, if you want to save your home, filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy might be the answer. To find out about the options available to you, speak with a local bankruptcy attorney.

Foreclosure Protections and Military Servicemembers

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides legal protections to military personnel facing foreclosure.

Are Deficiency Judgments Allowed in Georgia?

In a foreclosure, the borrower's total mortgage debt frequently exceeds the foreclosure sale price. The difference between the total debt and the sale price is called a "deficiency." For example, say the total debt owed is $300,000, but the home sells for $250,000 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. Once the lender gets a deficiency judgment, the lender may usually collect this amount—in our example, $50,000—from the borrower.

Georgia generally allows deficiency judgments after foreclosure.

Georgia Deficiency Judgment Laws

To get a deficiency judgment in Georgia, the lender must file a report of sale with the superior court of the county in which the land is located within 30 days after the nonjudicial foreclosure sale. (If the lender misses this deadline, it can't get a deficiency judgment.) (Ga. Code Ann. § 44-14-161).

Then, the court will hold a hearing before it confirms the sale. (If the court confirms the sale, the lender may then file a lawsuit against the borrower to get a deficiency judgment.) The lender must serve you with notice of the hearing at least five days before the hearing date. At the hearing, the court will verify that the foreclosure sale price is at least as much as the property's fair market value. The court will also evaluate whether the lender followed proper foreclosure procedures by looking at:

  • the notices that the lender sent
  • the published foreclosure sale advertisement, and
  • whether any irregularities in the sale happened. (Ga. Code Ann. § 44-14-161).

If the court confirms the sale, the lender can file a lawsuit against you to get a deficiency judgment. If the sale wasn't proper, the court may order a resale of the property. (Ga. Code Ann. § 44-14-161).

Will My Lender Sue Me for a Deficiency Judgment in Georgia?

Even if your lender has the right under state law to go after you for a deficiency judgment, it might decide not to bother, particularly if you're judgment proof.

Still, you should know whether your lender is allowed to get a deficiency after a foreclosure. And, even if the lender decides not to sue you for a deficiency judgment, it might sell the debt to a debt buyer who might file a lawsuit against you for the deficiency at some point.

How Long Do You Have to Move Out After Foreclosure in Georgia?

If you (the foreclosed borrower) don't move out after the foreclosure sale, the home's new owner must first make a demand for possession and then can begin eviction proceedings.

More Foreclosure Information

For more information on federal mortgage servicing laws and foreclosure relief options, go to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website.

Getting Help With a Georgia Foreclosure

If you have questions about Georgia's foreclosure process or want to learn about potential defenses to a foreclosure and possibly fight the foreclosure in court, consider talking to a foreclosure attorney. Talking to a HUD-approved housing counselor about different loss mitigation options is also a good idea.

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