Wisconsin Foreclosure Law and Procedure

Read about the steps in a Wisconsin foreclosure, including your rights along the way.

The article below provides an overview of Wisconsin foreclosure laws. (For more articles on foreclosure in Wisconsin, visit our Wisconsin Foreclosure Law Center.)

How Foreclosures Start in Wisconsin

A mortgage servicer (acting on behalf of the loan owner, called a "lender" in this article) cannot start a foreclosure unless you default under the loan contract. Usually that means failing to make payments. Most lenders give borrowers a 10 to 15 day grace period to make monthly payments. In most cases, on day 16, the lender will issue a late charge.

Before the Foreclosure Begins

Under federal regulations that went into effect on January 10, 2014, the servicer must normally wait until you are more than 120 days delinquent on the mortgage loan obligation before officially starting a foreclosure in court. This 120-day period is designed to give delinquent borrowers sufficient time to explore ways to avoid a foreclosure. (Read more about federal laws protecting homeowners in foreclosure.)

The Foreclosure Complaint

In Wisconsin, foreclosures are judicial, meaning lenders must go through the courts in order to foreclose on your home. In some states, lenders don’t have to go through the court system to foreclose. That kind of foreclosure is called "nonjudicial."

To start a judicial foreclosure, the foreclosing party files a summons and complaint in court. If the lender is seeking a deficiency judgment against youthe right to collect any money still due after sale of the homeit will include this request in the complaint. Most lenders will also file a lis pendens, which is a document filed with the county recorder that identifies the property and describes the foreclosure action. The lis pendens serves as public notice of the foreclosure action.

Answer to the Complaint

Once you receive the foreclosure complaint, you have 20 days to file a formal answer in court. The answer is your opportunity to address each allegation in the complaint, which means you can deny those that you believe are inaccurate. You may also bring up defenses against the foreclosure and claims you may have against the lender. (To learn more, see our Fighting Foreclosure in Court topic area.)

Requesting Foreclosure Mediation

Wisconsin’s Department of Justice and Attorney General have helped establish a Wisconsin Foreclosure Mediation Network. In addition, several counties in Wisconsin have their own mediation programs. In foreclosure mediation, you and the servicer try to come up with an alternative to foreclosure that benefits both you and the lender. Solutions might include a loan modification, repayment or forbearance agreement, short sale, or deed in lieu of foreclosure.

For most of these programs, the lender must attach to the complaint a notice of availability of mediation and an application for mediation. It is possible that if a lender fails to properly attach the proper mediation notice forms, you might be able to challenge the complaint. (If you want to fight the foreclosure in court, consider talking to a Wisconsin foreclosure attorney.)

The Right to Cure

Before the lender has obtained a judgment, borrowers have the right to cure any defaults by paying all past-due amounts plus the lender’s attorneys' fees and costs.

The Judgment for Foreclosure

There are three ways that a lender can obtain a foreclosure judgment.

  • Default judgment. If you don’t file an answer to the foreclosure complaint, the lender will seek a default judgment, which means the lender automatically wins.
  • Summary Judgment. If you file an answer, but the judge nonetheless finds the foreclosure should happen, the court will usually enter summary judgment in favor of the lender.
  • Judgment after trial. If the case goes to trial, and the lender wins, the lender will get a foreclosure judgment.

The Right to Redemption

In Wisconsin, you have the right to redeem the property before the sale if you act within a certain period of time (called a "redemption period.") To redeem, you must pay the entire value of the outstanding mortgage debt plus the lender’s attorneys’ fees and costs.

When You Can Redeem

Regardless of the type of judgmentdefault, summary, or judgment after trialthe redemption period begins with the entry of judgment and lasts for between five weeks and one year, depending on the circumstances, like whether the lender is seeking a deficiency judgment and when you signed the mortgage. Wisconsin’s redemption period law changed significantly as of April 27, 2016, so if you want to find out how long your redemption period will be, you’ll want to consult with a foreclosure attorney.

Partial Redemption

In Wisconsin, if the property can be divided into parcels, it is possible to redeem part of the property by making a motion to the court with appropriate notice, or by agreement with the lender.

Other Options During the Redemption Period

During the redemption period, a borrower may refinance, sell the property to pay off the amount due to the lender, or with the lender’s permission, engage in a short sale (a sale of the property for less than the full amount owed).

The Sheriff’s Sale

After the lender gets a judgment, it must publish a notice of sale before it can sell the property. In most instances the lender must wait a certain period of time before it can do so.

For the most part, the lender must publish the notice for three weeks and it must follow certain procedures as to the manner of publication. The sale, which is open to the public, can only be held after the applicable redemption period has expired.

Confirmation of Sale

A confirmation of sale is a hearing where the court makes sure there was no foul play or misconduct and confirms the propriety and validity of the sale. Parties who appeared in the action must receive at least five days' notice of this hearing before it takes place.

Eviction of the Borrower

Once the court approves the sale, if a homeowner has not voluntarily left the property, lenders may file a verified petition (a sworn request to the court) for a writ of assistance to obtain possession (this is an order from the court directing the sheriff to assist with obtaining possession). After a writ of assistance is granted, the date and time of eviction depends mostly upon the sheriff’s office. At that stage, the best way to find out the date and time of the eviction is to contact the sheriff’s office or the servicer or lender.

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