Michigan Foreclosure Laws and Procedures

Learn how a Michigan foreclosure works, including preforeclosure steps, foreclosure procedures, and homeowners’ rights under both state and federal laws.

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 Michigan sign a promissory note and mortgage. These documents give homeowners some contractual rights in addition to federal and state legal protections.

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

  • a preforeclosure breach letter
  • apply for loss mitigation
  • 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
  • redeem the property after the sale
  • file for bankruptcy, and
  • get any excess money after a foreclosure sale.

So, don't get caught off guard if you're a Michigan homeowner who's behind in mortgage payments. Learn about each step in a Michigan 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.

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 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."

Fees the Servicer Can Charge During Preforeclosure

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 Michigan 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.

Other types of fees the servicer might charge include those for broker's price opinions, which are like appraisals, and property preservation costs, such as for yard maintenance or winterizing an abandoned home.

Federal Mortgage Servicing Laws and Foreclosure Protections

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 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).

What Is a Breach Letter?

Many Michigan 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.

When Can Foreclosure Start?

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.

What Is the Foreclosure Process in Michigan?

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

How Judicial Foreclosures Work

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 Nonjudicial Foreclosures Work

If the lender chooses a nonjudicial foreclosure, it must complete the out-of-court procedures described in the state statutes. After completing the required steps, the lender can sell the home at a foreclosure sale. Most lenders opt to use the nonjudicial process because it's quicker and cheaper than litigating the matter in court.

Which Is the Most Common Foreclosure Process in Michigan?

Again, most residential foreclosures in Michigan are nonjudicial. But Michigan law doesn't require the lender to notify the homeowner personally as part of the process. Instead, notice of the foreclosure sale must be published and posted.

Publication of the Notice of Sale

To begin the foreclosure, the lender's attorney publishes a notice of sale once a week for four successive weeks in a newspaper published in the county in which the property is located. If no newspaper is published in the county, the notice must be published in an adjacent county. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.3208).

The notice must include, among other things:

  • the names of the borrowers
  • the date of the mortgage and when it was recorded
  • the amount due
  • a description of the property in foreclosure
  • the property address
  • the length of the redemption period (see below)
  • a statement that if the home is sold at a foreclosure sale, the borrower is responsible for any damage to the property that happens during the redemption period
  • the name, address, and telephone number of the attorney for the party foreclosing the mortgage
  • information about the sale, and
  • a notice to military servicemembers. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.3209).

Posting of the Notice of Sale

Within 15 days after the first publication of the notice of sale, a copy must be posted in a conspicuous place on the property. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.3208).

The Foreclosure Sale

Foreclosure sales are held between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the courthouse in the county where the property is located. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.3208). The sale is an auction, which is open to the public. 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 Michigan, 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 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.

How Can I Stop a Foreclosure in Michigan?

A few potential ways to stop a foreclosure include reinstating the loan, redeeming the property before or after the sale, 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.)

Reinstating the Loan

Michigan law doesn't provide a statutory right to reinstate the loan before the sale. But many mortgages, like the uniform Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac mortgage, 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.

Redeeming the Property Before the Sale

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

Some states also provide foreclosed borrowers with a redemption period after the foreclosure sale, during which they can buy back the home. In Michigan, the length of the redemption period depends on how much of the loan the borrower has paid off when the foreclosure took place, as well as the occupancy status of the home.

You'll receive:

  • six months, if you owed more than 66 and 2/3rd% of the original loan amount, or
  • one year, if you owed less than 66 and 2/3rd% of the original loan amount. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.3240(8),(12)).

If you abandon the home, the redemption period is 30 days after the sale or until the required notice that the lender considers the premises abandoned expires, whichever is later. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.3240(10)).

Inspections During the Redemption Period

In Michigan, the foreclosed homeowner generally gets the right to live in the home during the redemption period. However, Michigan law allows the purchaser who bought the property at the foreclosure sale to inspect the interior and exterior of the home during this time. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.3238.)

Under state law, if the foreclosed homeowner receives an initial notice about inspections, but plans to move out of the property before the redemption period expires, the former homeowner has to inform the purchaser of the move-out date. Otherwise, the foreclosed homeowner is at risk of liability for damage to the property after moving out. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.3237.)

Filing for Bankruptcy

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.

Michigan Deficiency Judgment Laws

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. Generally, once the lender gets a deficiency judgment, the lender may collect this amount—in our example, $50,000—from the borrower.

In Michigan, the lender may obtain a deficiency judgment following a nonjudicial foreclosure. But the borrower can contest the amount of the deficiency if the lender was the purchaser at the foreclosure sale, and

  • the property was fairly worth the amount of the debt at the time of the sale, or
  • the foreclosure sale price was substantially less than the fair market value of the property. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.3280).

Where to Find Your State's Statutes and More Foreclosure Resources

In this article, you'll find details on foreclosure laws in Michigan, with citations to statutes so you can learn more. Statutes change, so checking them is always a good idea.

How to Find Federal Foreclosure Laws

If you're looking for federal laws, you might want to visit the Library of Congress's legal research website, which provides links to federal regulations and federal statutes.

How to Find State Foreclosure Laws

To find Michigan's laws, search online for "Michigan statutes" or "Michigan 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.

More Foreclosure Resources

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.

Getting Help

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 Michigan'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).

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