Protection from a Sheriff Sale

By Andrew J Thompson

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from losing your home in a Sheriff Sale is to be pro-active in presenting your legal defense at every step of the foreclosure process.  If you have tried to work with your bank alone, however, without the help of an attorney, it’s likely you’ve fallen short of protecting yourself in the best way you can.

If you have an attorney, who defends your rights on every point of contention, it is unlikely a court will decide you have slept on your rights, or failed in your efforts to meet your obligations (if in fact you have tried to meet them), and allow a Sheriff Sale to proceed.  On the other hand, if you wait until a Sheriff Sale has occurred or is about to, before having an attorney do anything on your behalf, the court is very likely to conclude you have had plenty of opportunity, and never shown the court you truly would do what you could to keep your home.

If you have fallen behind on a mortgage, there are things an attorney can do for you at each stage of the process:

  1. BEFORE A FORECLOSURE ACTION IS FILED: It’s wise to engage an attorney as soon as you reach a point where you cannot deal with the bank and get a sound resolution to your problem.  This usually occurs the first time you have trouble applying for a loan modification.  The banks are not good at explaining why there is a hang up in the process, and you may have some options or defenses to their claims against you for an arrearage, that can only be adequately presented if you start when they arise.
  2. AFTER RECEIVING A SUMMONS: Within 20 days after receiving a Summons, you should consult with and engage a lawyer.  This is the point at which the attorney can typically do the most to help you.  Why?  It is the one opportunity you have to deny the bank’s allegations.  But more important even than that are two critical steps in the process you can only engage within 20-60 days of receiving the summons: 1) the opportunity to file a counterclaim against the bank for what it may have done wrong, and 2) scheduling a settlement conference to seek a foreclosure prevention agreement.
  3. UPON A MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT BY THE BANK: If the bank seeks summary judgment, and it usually does at some point, it is trying to avoid the expense and risk of going to trial by getting the judge to rule in its favor on the paper filed with the court, rather than evidence that could be presented at trial.  A skilled attorney can help you avoid summary judgment by pointing out factual issues that need to be addressed before the bank’s claim warrants a judgment in its favor.  If you prevail at this juncture, there is a very good chance the bank will never take a judgment against you and you will have the opportunity to negotiate a settlement that will work for you. (You may have to tender payments to the court to show good faith on your part in the meantime, however.)
  4. AFTER FORECLOSURE OR DEFAULT JUDGMENT IS TAKEN: This is a point when fast action is critical.  If you get something done before a Sheriff Sale is scheduled, you may never face that prospect.  But your options have been narrowed considerably by now and you have to think much more tactically with your attorney’s help.
  5. ONCE A SHERIFF SALE IS SCHEDULED: Like the preceding step, but much more obviously, this is a point when you need to act.  Your attorney needs to leverage his ability to slow down or “stay” the process and get the bank to consider a settlement that doesn’t end up in it taking back a property it probably doesn’t want.
  6. POST SALE, BUT BEFORE AN EVICTION: Even at this late stage, we have seen homeowners keep their homes indefinitely by showing some good faith and using their attorney to plead their case before the court.  You can save your home at any point in the process, but it gets tougher with each marker the bank passes on the road to taking possession of your home.

Take advantage of the resources you have.  Your attorney can be the best help you find in the process of avoiding the loss of your home through foreclosure.

Andrew J Thompson is an attorney with 22 years experience in business, family and real estate law, practicing in Indianapolis, IN.  You may reach his firm, the Thompson Law Office, by calling (317) 564-4976 to schedule a free consultation.

How to Avoid Foreclosure

By Andrew J Thompson

If you are a homeowner facing default or other difficulties in meeting your mortgage obligation, here are some suggestions for avoiding foreclosure.   It’s likely if you’re reading this, that you have issues with your lender, and you’ve been treated unfairly somewhere in the process.   This article assumes you’ve fallen behind on your mortgage and you need help understanding your options.  The odds are good that you’re not getting that help from your lender.

  1. Don’t Rely on the Wrong People for Help:  If you’re counting on the one-to-one relationship you’ve initiated with the lender, you’re likely to be disappointed before long.  There is tremendous turnover in mortgage areas today, constant reassignment of personnel, and the loans themselves are often re-assigned to new lenders.  It can be even worse to rely on the help of out-of-state parties, or non-attorneys – especially if they act as if they can provide legal help and are not licensed to practice law.  Unfortunately, the thorny issues that arise when you have problems with a mortgage are unlikely to be solved without the intervention of a court at some point – it may take months or even years to resolve, but a court needs to be involved in the process.
  2. Stay in Control of the “Mitigation” Process: When you truly cannot meet your payment schedule, start asking questions of the lender, and be sure to ask the right questions.  If you leave the whole process up to them, no one will win – they do not have the vested interest in your home that you do.   The right questions begin with asking, “how do I know I’m dealing with the right party on this mortgage?”  You are likely to hear that they are, in fact, the right party to communicate with, but this isn’t always the case – the note could have been transferred numerous times, and they need to document their rights as a holder in due course of your note on the mortgage before you should deal directly with them.  This is probably a very good time to consult an attorney.  You should put the lender or its servicer in a position to show that it is, in fact, the “real party in interest” to the transaction, because it is likely that your note has been sold, and the mortgage may have been assigned to a different party.  This creates a problem for the lender – not you.  You may need an attorney to help you sort this out.
  3. Proper Use of a Loan Modification to Address Your Problems:  Loan modification arrangements are generally structured by the lenders to serve their needs, not yours.  When all is said and done, the bank will try to collect all of any arrearage, and as quickly as it can.  It may also shift the escrow payment schedule in a way that means you will end up paying a higher payment than what you originally owed.  This can be a no win situation, if the lender is unwilling to act in compromise, and unfortunately, there are actually only a few homeowners who come out ahead with a modification – it’s worth trying, but don’t count on it as a magic bullet.
  4. The Value of a Settlement Conference: A settlement conference is designed to put the homeowner on a more level playing field with the creditor who is foreclosing.  The goal is to keep the homeowner from losing the home unless it can be sold, and he/she/they can walk away with a situation that will enable them to find suitable housing afterward.  At a settlement conference, you are entitled to be represented by an attorney, and the creditor is required to account for the history on the loan, and to have a representative available with authority to settle the case.  The parties are encouraged to enter into a Foreclosure Prevention Agreement that meets the homeowner’s needs, as well as the creditor’s.
  5. Prepare with Every Valid Defense and Claim Against the Lender You May Have:  You need well versed, competent counsel to do this effectively.   There are issues relating to the transfer of the promissory note, assignment of your mortgage, the real party in interest on the mortgage, the fairness in their dealings with you, and more, that you should consider.
To schedule a free consultation concerning  your rights regarding your mortgage, call the Thompson Law Office at (317) 564-4976 today.