If I buy a home at a foreclosure sale in Rhode Island, can its owners later take it back?

Find out the rare situations in which the former owners of a foreclosed-upon home might reclaim it in Rhode Island.

Question

I’m very seriously thinking about buying an investment property in Rhode Island by bidding at a foreclosure sale. I’ve done some research online about how the process works and what to expect, but there’s one big thing that concerns me. I read that the owners might be able to get the house back even after the foreclosure is over. First of all, how does this work? Second, how likely is it that the former owners might actually get the house back?

Answer

It is possible, though unlikely, that the former owners will be able to get the home back after a foreclosure in Rhode Island. They would do so by paying the full amount due on the mortgage, plus interest and expenses. This is called redeeming the property.

Foreclosed homeowners in Rhode Island get the right to redeem the property only if the foreclosure is done by "judicial" process or by peaceable and open entry (which is a very rare foreclosure process.)

If the foreclosure is nonjudicial, the homeowners cannot get the home back after the foreclosure.

We’ll describe below a little more about these different types of foreclosures and whether Rhode Island’s redemption laws should make you nervous about losing it to the former owners.

Rhode Island Foreclosures Are Usually Nonjudicial

Foreclosures in Rhode Island are typically nonjudicial, which means the lender does not have to go through state court to foreclose. Judicial foreclosures (in which the lender files a lawsuit in court) are also possible. (Foreclosure by peaceable and open entry almost never occurs.)

Does the difference between a nonjudicial and a judicial foreclosure matter to you as a potential purchaser at a foreclosure sale? As noted earlier, if the foreclosure is nonjudicial, the former homeowner won’t have the right to redeem the house after the foreclosure, which is good news for you.

How to find out whether the foreclosure is nonjudicial or judicial.  One way that you can discover which foreclosure process the lender is using is to go to  www.zillow.com. First, sign up for a free account and log in. (You must do this otherwise you won’t be able to review all of the foreclosure information.) Locate the house by entering the address in the search box. This leads to a map of the neighborhood. Then click on the property address, which is a link to the relevant Web page. Scroll approximately one-third of the way down and click on “More foreclosure information” to find out whether the foreclosure is nonjudicial or judicial along with other information, such as the name and phone number of the lender’s attorney.

The Homeowners Can’t Redeem After a Nonjudicial Foreclosure in Rhode Island

Under Rhode Island law, the foreclosed homeowners can't redeem the home after a nonjudicial foreclosure.

The Homeowners’ Right to Redeem After a Judicial Foreclosure in Rhode Island

If the foreclosure is judicial (or by peaceable and open entry), the former owners can redeem within three years (R.I. Gen Laws § 34-23-3). These foreclosure processes are seldom used, though, which means most homeowners in Rhode Island don’t get the opportunity to redeem after the sale.

How Much the Foreclosed Homeowners Must Pay to Redeem and Get the House Back

In the unlikely event that the Rhode Island homeowners get the right the redeem, they would have to pay the full amount due on the mortgage, plus interest and expenses, to get the house back (R.I. Gen Laws § 34-23-2).

Possibility of Redemption by IRS

It's also possible, but not very common, for the IRS to redeem the home after a judicial or nonjudicial foreclosure if there was a federal tax lien on the home. The IRS gets 120 days (or the allowable period under state law, whichever is longer) to redeem. If the IRS considers redeeming the house, you’ll get a notice beforehand.

Finding Rhode Island’s Redemption Laws

To find the statutes that discuss the former homeowners’ right to redeem after a foreclosure in Rhode Island, go to Title 34, Chapter 34-11 and Title 34, Chapter 34-23 of the  State of Rhode Island General Laws.

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