Let’s get right to the problem: how do you handle foreclosure? You’ve fallen behind on your house payments. Now, before you do anything, you need to consider your options. Technically, Chapter 7 bankruptcy will not save your home–you lose it in the liquidation. If you act quickly enough, you can file Chapter 13 bankruptcy in order to save your home.
What really is foreclosure?
Foreclosure means you’ve fallen behind in mortgage payments and your lender decides to sell your home. If you do nothing, you will lose the home. If you act before the lender decides to initiate foreclosure proceedings, you can in fact protect your home with what’s called an “automatic stay,” which stops the foreclosure from going through.
How can Chapter 13 help?
Chapter 7 is a liquidation, Chapter 13 a debt repayment plan. You pay nothing, in most cases, with Chapter 7 as your assets are sold. Chapter 13 means you still owe money, but your payments are restructured over 3-5 years. That means if you can stay current with the Chapter 13 repayment plan, you can keep your home.
Here’s what happens if you fail to act quickly enough. This is what could happen if you wait too long to file, or if you do absolutely nothing.
First, you fall behind in mortgage payments. How soon is this? It varies in different states, but technically foreclosure can begin after one missed payment. However, few lenders act that quickly; the majority wait until you fall far behind.
Second, depending on the state, the lender will usually send a notice explaining their intent to foreclose your property. This is a ten day notice, and by this time it may be too late to file for Chapter 13 to save the home.
The lender’s next step is to file a lawsuit with the courts; if you can catch up with payments, this won’t happen. You have a chance to fight this case in court after being given a summons, by responding within a few weeks. This is your opportunity to prove to the judge that something is wrong with this process. At this point, you might consider hiring an attorney to help you. The best choice would clearly be to hire a bankruptcy attorney before this process is initiated.
The next steps are pretty straightforward: you are told of intent to sell if the courts don’t stop it, an auction is held on your home, and you are either evicted or allowed to stay.
That last step, where you are either evicted or allowed to stay, depends on the state. Many states allow you to stay in the home until you are given an official eviction notice.
Steps to Avoid Foreclosure
These laws can be navigated if you take immediate action. Since the time involved depends on the lender, the court, and the market for your home, sometimes you have more time and sometimes you have little if any. There are few ways to gauge how this will work in terms of time. So upon falling behind in payments, if it’s clear you won’t be able to catch up, contact a bankruptcy attorney. The good news is, with Chapter 13 filing, you can save your home.