Summary of California's Foreclosure Laws

Learn about the key features of foreclosure in California.

If you are facing foreclosure in California, it’s important to understand some of the basics, including:

  • the most common type of foreclosure procedure (judicial v. nonjudicial) used in California
  • how much time you have to respond
  • your rights and protections in the process, and
  • what happens afterwards (for example, whether you’ll be liable for a deficiency judgment).

Below we have outlined some of the most important features of California foreclosure law. Keep in mind that this is just a summary; we’ve included statute citations so you can get more details from the laws themselves. And be sure to check out Nolo’s extensive Foreclosure section, where you can find information about all aspects of foreclosure, definitions of foreclosure terms (like redemption and reinstatement), and options to avoid foreclosure.


State Rule

Most common type of foreclosure process

Nonjudicial under power of sale in deed of trust

Notice of the foreclosure

Foreclosing party must personally contact (or meet the requirements for attempting to contact) borrowers to explore options for avoiding foreclosure 30 days before recording the notice of default. The foreclosing party then records a three-month notice of default in the county recorder’s office and mails a copy to the borrowers within ten business days following recordation. After three months expires (or up to five days prior), the foreclosing party records a notice of sale and mails a copy to the borrowers at least 20 days before the sale date. The sale date cannot be earlier than three months and 20 days after the recording date of the notice of default. The notice of sale is also posted on the property, in a public place, and published in a newspaper.

Reinstatement of loan before sale

Allowed any time until five business days prior to the sale date

Redemption after sale

Not available after a nonjudicial foreclosure. (Available after judicial foreclosure for three months or one year, depending on the circumstances.)

Special protections for foreclosures involving high-cost mortgages

Cal. Fin. Code § 4973 makes a number of abusive loan practices unlawful. Section 4978 provides remedies that include authority for a judge to reform the loan to comply with the law. These provisions don’t apply to mortgages held by the secondary market (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac) or to assignees who have no reason to know of the loan origination violations. Cal. Fin. Code § 4979.8

Special state protections for service members

Protections similar to those under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act extended to members of the National Guard called or ordered into active state service by the governor or into active federal service by the President of the United States. Also applies to reservists who have been called to full-time active duty. Cal. Mil. & Vet. Code § § 400 to 409.13

Deficiency judgments

Not allowed after a nonjudicial foreclosure

Cash exempted in bankruptcy

Up to about $25,340 under California exemption System 2

Notice to leave after the house is sold

New owner must give former homeowner three-day notice to quit (leave) and file an unlawful detainer lawsuit to evict.

Foreclosure statutes

Cal. Civ. Code § § 2923.5, 2924 to 2924l; Cal. Code of Civ. Pro. § § 580a through 580d

The Homeowners Bill of Rightsa law providing more protections to California homeowners in foreclosurewent into effect on January 1, 2013. To learn more see California Foreclosure Protection: The Homeowner Bill of Rights and Special Foreclosure Protections in California.

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