North Carolina Foreclosure Laws and Procedures

Learn about North Carolina foreclosure procedures, including steps the foreclosing lender must take, notices you'll get, and more.

If you're a homeowner in North Carolina facing the scary prospect of losing your home to foreclosure, don’t be caught off guard. Read on to find out each step in a North Carolina foreclosurefrom missing your first payment all the way to evictionand learn about your rights during the process.

North Carolina Mortgage Loans

When you take out a loan to buy residential property in North Carolina, you typically sign a promissory note and a deed of trust, which is similar to a mortgage. A promissory note is basically an IOU that contains the promise to repay the loan, as well as the terms for repayment. The deed of trust provides security for the loan that is evidenced by a promissory note. (Find out more in our article What’s the Difference Between a Mortgage and a Promissory Note?)

What Happens When You Miss a Payment

If you miss a payment, most loans include a grace period of fifteen days after which time the loan servicer will assess a late fee.

The late fee is generally 4% of the overdue payment of principal and interest based on the terms of the note. To find out the late charge amount and grace period for your loan, look at the promissory note that you signed. This information can also be found on your monthly mortgage statement. (Read more about fees that the lender can charge if you’re late on mortgage payments.)

What Happens When You Fall Behind in a Few Payments

If you miss a few mortgage payments, your mortgage servicer will probably send a letter or two reminding you to get caught up, as well as call you to try to collect the payments. Don’t ignore the phone calls and letters. This is a good opportunity to discuss loss mitigation options and attempt to work out an agreement—like a loan modification, forbearance agreement, and payment plan—so you can avoid foreclosure.

Preforeclosure Loss Mitigation Review Period

Under federal mortgage servicing law, the servicer must generally wait until you are 120 days delinquent on payments before making the first official notice or filing for any nonjudicial or judicial foreclosure. This time period is supposed to give you sufficient opportunity to explore loss mitigation opportunities. (Read more about when foreclosure can begin.)

North Carolina Foreclosures

In North Carolina, most residential foreclosures are nonjudicial. This typically means the lender can foreclose without going to court so long as the deed of trust contains a power of sale clause. Though, North Carolina nonjudicial foreclosures usually involve one court hearing (see below).

45-Day Preforeclosure Notice

At least 45 days before starting a foreclosure, the servicer must send a notice to the borrower that includes the following information (among other things):

  • the past due amount and other charges that must be paid to bring the loan current
  • contact information for the mortgage lender, the servicer, or an agent who is authorized to work with the borrower to avoid foreclosure, and
  • contact information for a HUD-approved housing counseling agency. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 45-102).

Notice of Default (30-Day Letter)

The lender must send a notice of default, which includes a detailed statement of amounts due along with a daily interest charge (based on the contract rate as of the date of the statement), to the borrower within 30 days of the date of the notice of hearing. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 45-21.16[c][5a]).

Notice of Hearing

A notice of hearing to show cause as to why the foreclosure should not be allowed to proceed must be served to the borrower:

  • 10 days before the hearing (if served to the borrower personally) or
  • 20 days before the hearing (if posted on the property). (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 45-21.16).

At the hearing, the court will consider certain issues, like whether the debt is valid and the foreclosing party is the holder of the debt, if the homeowner is actually in default, whether foreclosure is allowed under the deed of trust, and whether proper notice was given.

The clerk can decide to postpone the hearing (for no more than 60 days) if:

  • the residence being foreclosed is the borrower’s principal residence, and
  • the clerk determines there is good cause to believe that additional time or additional measures have a reasonable likelihood of resolving the delinquency without foreclosure. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 45-21.16C).
If a postponement isn’t warranted and the lender followed certain procedural steps, the clerk will authorize a foreclosure sale.

Notice of Sale

At least 20 days before the sale, a copy of the notice of sale must be:

  • sent to the borrower, and
  • posted in a public place. (Typically, the notice is posted at the courthouse immediately after the hearing).

The notice of sale must be published once a week for at least two successive weeks in a newspaper in the county in which the property is situated, with the last publication being not more than ten days before the sale. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 45-21.17).

Reinstatement Before Sale

There is no statutory right to reinstate the loan prior to the sale in North Carolina. However, most deeds of trust, such as the conventional FNMA (Fannie Mae)/FHLMC (Freddie Mac) deed of trust, provide the borrower the right to cure the default after acceleration and reinstate the loan, usually up to five days prior to the foreclosure sale.

The Foreclosure Sale

At the foreclosure sale, the property will be:

  • sold to the highest third-party bidder, or
  • sold to the foreclosing lender and become REO.

Deficiency Judgment Following Sale

When a lender forecloses on a mortgage, the total debt owed by the borrower to the lender frequently exceeds the foreclosure sale price. The difference between the sale price and the total debt is called a “deficiency.” In some states, the lender can seek a personal judgment, called a "deficiency judgment," against the debtor to recover the deficiency. Generally, once the lender gets a deficiency judgment, the lender may collect this amount from the borrower.

In North Carolina, no deficiency judgment is allowed if the foreclosure was nonjudicial and the mortgage was a purchase money mortgage. (N.C. Gen. Stat § 45-21.38).

The lender may also be barred from seeking a deficiency judgment after foreclosure if:

  • the mortgage is nontraditional (for example, Pick-a-Payment or Option ARM loans) or is a rate spread home loan (where the annual percentage rate exceeds a certain threshold), and
  • the mortgage secures borrower’s principal residence. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 45-21.38A).

Find out more about Deficiency Judgments After Foreclosure in North Carolina.

Redemption Period

A redemption period is the legal right of a mortgage borrower in foreclosure to pay off the total debt, including the principal balance, plus certain additional costs and interest, in order to reclaim the property. Paying off the debt is called "redeeming" the property.

In North Carolina, there is a ten-day upset bid period after the foreclosure sale.

During the ten-day upset bid period, the borrower has the right to pay the debt in full and redeem the property. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 45-21.20.) The borrower can also redeem before the foreclosure sale.

Eviction Following Foreclosure

If you don’t vacate the property following the foreclosure sale, the new owner will likely:

  • offer a cash-for-keys deal (where the new owner offers you money in exchange for you agreeing to move out), or
  • give you a notice to quit (leave) before evicting you. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 45-21.29).

Talk to an Attorney

If you have questions about the foreclosure process in North Carolina or want to learn about potential defenses to a foreclosure, consider talking to a foreclosure attorney. It’s also a good idea to talk to a HUD-approved housing counselor, especially if you want to learn about different loss mitigation options.

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