Before the foreclosure crisis, which peaked in 2010, federal and state laws regulating mortgage servicers and foreclosure procedures were relatively limited and tended to favor foreclosing lenders. Now, however, federal and state laws heavily regulate loan servicing and foreclosure processes. And 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 Illinois sign a promissory note and mortgage. These documents give homeowners some contractual rights in addition to federal and state legal protections.
In an Illinois foreclosure, you'll most likely get the right to:
So, don't get caught off guard if you're an Illinois homeowner who's behind in mortgage payments. Learn about each step in an Illinois foreclosure, from missing your first payment to a foreclosure sale. Once you understand the process, 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.
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 actually happens as "preforeclosure," too.) During this time, the servicer can charge you various fees, like late charges and inspection fees, and, in most cases, must inform you about ways to avoid foreclosure and send you a preforeclosure notice called a “breach letter.”
If you miss a payment, most loans include a grace period of, say, ten or fifteen days, after which time the servicer will assess a late fee. Each month you miss a payment, the servicer will charge this fee. To find out the late charge amount and grace period for your loan, look at the promissory note you signed. You can also find this information on your monthly mortgage statement.
Also, many Illinois mortgages allow the lender (or the current loan holder, referred to as the “lender” in this article) to take necessary steps to protect its interest in the property. Property inspections are performed to ensure that the home is occupied and appropriately maintained. Inspections, which are generally drive-by, are usually ordered automatically once the loan goes into default and typically cost around $10 or $15.
Additional types of fees the servicer might charge include, among others, fees for broker's price opinions, which are like appraisals, and property preservation costs, such as for yard maintenance or winterizing an abandoned home.
Under federal mortgage servicing laws, if the property is your principal residence, the servicer must contact, or attempt to contact, you by phone to discuss loss mitigation options, like a loan modification, forbearance, or repayment plan, no later than 36 days after you miss a payment and again within 36 days after each following delinquency. No later than 45 days after missing a payment, the servicer has to inform you in writing about loss mitigation options that might be available and appoint personnel to help you try to work out a way to avoid foreclosure. A few exceptions are in place for some of these requirements, though, like if you've filed for bankruptcy or asked the servicer not to contact you pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. (12 C.F.R. § 1024.30, 12 C.F.R. § 1024.39, 12 C.F.R. § 1024.40).
Federal mortgage servicing laws also prohibit dual tracking (pursuing a foreclosure while a complete loss mitigation application is pending).
Many Illinois mortgages have a provision that requires the lender to send a notice, commonly called a “breach letter,” informing you that the loan is in default before the lender can accelerate the loan. The breach letter gives you a chance to cure the default and avoid foreclosure.
Under federal law, the servicer usually can't officially begin a foreclosure until you're more than 120 days past due on payments, subject to a few exceptions. (12 C.F.R. § 1024.41). This 120-day period provides most homeowners with ample opportunity to submit a loss mitigation application to the servicer.
If you default on your mortgage payments for your home in Illinois, the foreclosure will be judicial.
A judicial foreclosure begins when the lender files a lawsuit asking a court for an order allowing a foreclosure sale. The lender gives notice of the suit by serving you a summons, complaint, and a notice advising you about your rights and how to get help during the foreclosure process. (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/15-1504.5). Most people get 30 days to file an answer to the suit.
If you don't respond to the suit, the lender will ask the court for, and probably receive, a default judgment, which will allow it to hold a foreclosure sale. But if you choose to defend the foreclosure lawsuit, the case will go through the litigation process. The lender might then ask the court to grant summary judgment. A summary judgment motion asks that the court grant judgment in favor of the lender because there's no dispute about the critical aspects of the case. If the court grants summary judgment for the lender—or you lose at trial—the judge will enter a judgment and order your home sold at auction.
Notice of the foreclosure sale must be published in a newspaper for at least three consecutive weeks, once per week, with the first notice published not more than 45 days prior to the sale and the last notice published not less than seven days prior to the sale. Not fewer than 10 business days before the sale, the lender's attorney must send notice of the sale by electronic service (e-mail) to all defendants appearing of record who have e-mail, and send notice by mail to all defendants not appearing of record. (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/15-1507, Illinois Supreme Court Rule 113).
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, including Illinois, 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. If the lender is the highest bidder, the property becomes what's called “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—that is, money over and above what's needed to pay off all the liens on your property—you're entitled to that surplus money.
You (the foreclosed homeowner) can stay in the home for 30 days after the court confirms the sale. (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/15-1701, 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/15-1508).
A few potential ways to stop a foreclosure include reinstating the loan, redeeming the property before the sale (or for a short period after the sale, in some cases), or filing for bankruptcy. Of course, if you're able to work out a loss mitigation option, like a loan modification, that will also stop a foreclosure.
Under Illinois law, the borrower may reinstate the loan up to 90 days after being served with a summons or by publication or otherwise submitted to the jurisdiction of the court. (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/15-1602). As a practical matter though, most loan servicers allow the borrower to reinstate at any time before the sale.
A "redemption period" is the time period during which a borrower in foreclosure may pay off the total debt, including the principal balance, plus certain additional costs and interest, to reclaim the property. In Illinois, the sale can't be held until the redemption period expires.
Redemption period before the foreclosure sale. The redemption period for residential properties expires at the later of either seven months after the complaint is served or three months from the date of judgment. But if the property has been abandoned, the redemption period can be reduced to 30 days from the date of judgment. (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/15-1603).
Special right of redemption after the sale. Additionally, Illinois law provides a 30-day special right to redeem after the date the sale is confirmed if:
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 that 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.
In a foreclosure, the borrower's total mortgage debt sometimes 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 $400,000, but the home sells for $350,000 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 borrower.
In Illinois, a lender may obtain a deficiency judgment as part of the foreclosure action, but only if the borrower has been personally served in the foreclosure lawsuit (unless the borrower enters an appearance in the action). (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/15-1508).
In this article, you'll find details on foreclosure laws in Illinois, with citations to statutes so you can learn more. Statutes change, so checking them is always a good idea.
To find Illinois's laws, search online for “Illinois statutes” or “Illinois laws.” Make sure you're reading the most recent, official laws. Usually, the URL will end in “.gov” or the statutes will be on an official state legislature webpage.
For more information on federal mortgage servicing laws, as well as foreclosure relief options, go to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website.
Although the programs under the Making Home Affordable (MHA) initiative have expired, the MHA website still contains useful information for homeowners facing foreclosure.
How courts and agencies interpret and apply laws can change. And some rules can even vary within a state. These are just some of the reasons to consider consulting a lawyer if you're facing a foreclosure. If you have questions about Illinois'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.
It's also a good idea to talk to a HUD-approved housing counselor if you want to learn about different loss mitigation options. You can use the CFPB's Find a Counselor tool to get a list of HUD-approved housing counseling agencies in your area. You can also call the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HOPE) Hotline, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 888-995-HOPE (4673).