If you're facing foreclosure in Ohio, it's important to understand how the process works. Foreclosures in Ohio are judicial, meaning they must go through court. The foreclosure officially begins when your lender files a foreclosure summons and complaint. But in some cases, your loan documents may require your lender to send you certain notices beforehand.
Read on to learn about the steps in an Ohio foreclosure case.
Under federal mortgage servicing laws that went into effect on January 10, 2014, the servicer (on the lender's behalf) must typically wait until you're more than 120 days delinquent on your mortgage loan obligation before starting a foreclosure in court. This 120-day period is designed to give delinquent borrowers sufficient time to explore loss mitigation options.
Ohio doesn't have a statute that requires lenders to give you notice before it files a foreclosure case. But your mortgage contract might contain provisions that require specific types of notices, such as:
Notice of default. Your mortgage might have a provision that requires the bank to give you written notice of the default before it can call the entire loan due (called “acceleration”) and file for foreclosure.
Time to cure. The loan agreement might also allow you a period of time after the notice of default to bring the loan current by paying all the past due payments and charges before the bank can foreclose, which is called "curing” the default." Usually, you have at least 30 days to cure the default before the bank may file foreclosure.
Check your mortgage paperwork to see if it has either of these provisions.
In Ohio, a mortgage foreclosure begins when the lender files a complaint with the court.
The summons is a document issued by the clerk of the court. It will contain instructions as to when and where to file an answer, as well as other important foreclosure case information. If the court has a mediation program, the summons will include information on how you can participate in mediation, including a form to request it.
The complaint might be lengthy or brief. Usually, it will contain the following information:
At a minimum, the complaint should have attached to it copies of the following documents:
If the creditor who is suing you isn't the original mortgage lender, then the complaint should also include documents evidencing the foreclosing creditor's ownership of that mortgage loan.
You should read the complaint and examine the documents attached to it very carefully. If you disagree with the allegations or discover that the creditor has failed to include necessary documentation, you can raise these issues in your answer.
The types of legal and factual issues that you can raise will depend on your particular circumstances. If you don't file an answer or if you don't raise a particular defense in your answer, you'll be barred from raising it later (though there are a few exceptions to this rule).
In Ohio, you have 28 days from the date that you are served with the summons and complaint to serve (or mail) your answer or other response on the foreclosing creditor's attorney. You must also file in court your answer or other response within three days of serving your answer on the creditor.
If you don't file an answer, or file the answer late, then the court may grant a default judgment against you, which means the lender automatically wins.
If you need more time to respond to the complaint, you can request that the court grant you an extension of time, sometimes called “leave to plead,” to file your answer. In some counties, you can get an automatic 30-day leave to plead if you and the lender's attorney agree to the extension in writing, called “stipulation for leave to plead.” Most courts and lender's attorneys will agree to granting you leave to plead, provided that you request it before the original answer deadline has expired.
If you're currently serving in the military when the foreclosure is filed (or were recently discharged), invoking your rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) can give you more time to deal with the foreclosure.
If you missed the answer deadline and the creditor has filed a motion for default, you might still be able to object to the default if you have good reason for not answering sooner. For example, you didn't receive proper service of the complaint or were ill. You only have a short period of time to object to the default motion after it is filed, sometimes less than a week. Some courts hold default hearings, and you can show up at that hearing and request to enter the case at that time. It's up to the court to grant your request.
Sometimes another lender or creditor will file a cross-claim in the lawsuit. This might happen if you owe more than one mortgage or another debt is secured by your home. You should answer the cross-claim separately in the same manner as you would in responding to the original complaint.
After you file the answer, the foreclosure case will then proceed as other lawsuits generally do. Your case may be assigned to a special foreclosure magistrate, such as in Cuyahoga County. At least one pre-trial hearing or status conference (or both) will be held, at which time you'll get to discuss the legal and factual issues with the judge or magistrate. This is a good opportunity to discuss a possible resolution with the bank's attorney.
The lender may file a motion for summary judgment, which is a request that the court grant judgment in favor of the lender because there is no real factual issue to go to trial on (for example, there is no dispute that you are in default on the mortgage), and it is legally entitled to foreclose. You must formally oppose the motion if you don't want the court to grant it.
If the court doesn't grant summary judgment to the lender, then the foreclosure case will eventually go to trial. At trial, you'll have to prove your defense and claims. That means you will need to bring documents, like canceled checks, loan papers, etc., and witnesses to support your defense.
If the case is presided over by a magistrate, he or she will make findings and recommendations. If your defense involves an important legal or factual dispute, you should request that the magistrate include separate “findings of facts and conclusions of law” in the decision. You must request this no later than seven days after the decision is filed.
If you dispute the magistrate's decision and findings, you may formally object by filing a written objection explaining how the magistrate's findings and application of the law were wrong. You have a limited amount of time to object to a magistrate's decision, no more than 14 days from the date that it is filed.
If there is no objection, or if the court overrules your objection, then the court will adopt the magistrate's decision in full or in part, usually within 30 days.
Mediation might be a good alternative to defending the foreclosure through litigation. Many courts in Ohio offer mediation programs to borrowers who wish to keep their home, resolve the mortgage debt with a short sale, or explore other options with the lender.
Some courts allow you to request mediation at any time before judgment is entered. Others give you a short period of time. In most cases, the foreclosure case is put on hold while you are in mediation. If the mediation is unsuccessful, then the foreclosure case is reactivated.
After the court has granted judgment for foreclosure in favor of the lender, the sale procedures will begin. The sale is conducted by the county sheriff or, as of 2016, the lender may file a motion for an order authorizing a specified private selling officer to sell the property.
Before a house may be sold in the foreclosure, certain procedures must be followed. Those procedures include:
Your legal rights in the property do not terminate until:
In many cases, the lender is the successful bidder. But it can't displace you, change the locks, move your possessions, or take other improper eviction actions unless and until such time as it comes into lawful possession of the property, or you've abandoned it. If you believe your rights were violated, you should consult with a local attorney or legal aid office immediately.
You have a right to redeem your house in foreclosure at any time, until the sale of the house is confirmed by the court. Redemption means that you pay off the mortgage loan in full, including all applicable fees (except attorneys' fees) and costs.
If you wish to redeem the property, you should request an itemized written payoff from the lender's attorney, which is usually good for at least 30 days.
If you don't have the funds or financing to fully redeem the mortgage, you might still have the right to reinstate the loan. That means that you can stop the foreclosure and cure the default by bringing the loan current.
Ohio law doesn't recognize a right of reinstatement. But your loan papers may provide for reinstatement. Many do.
To bring the loan current, you will need to pay, by the deadline set forth in the loan agreement:
As with the payoff, you should request a reinstatement quote from the lender's attorney.
You can find the majority of Ohio’s foreclosure laws in the Ohio Revised Code (§§ 2329.01 to 2329.61). Statutes change, so checking them is always a good idea. How courts and agencies interpret and apply the law can also change. And some rules can even vary within a state. These are just some of the reasons to consult with an attorney if you’re facing a foreclosure.
If you need help finding or understanding Ohio's foreclosure laws, want to file an answer to the suit, or have questions about your particular circumstances, consider contacting a local foreclosure attorney. Homeowners facing foreclosure are also encouraged to contact a HUD-approved housing counselor.