When borrowers miss payment(s) on their mortgage for whatever reason, the loan may be considered in default. The lender then acknowledges the default with a letter notifying the borrower to address the issue within a certain time period. If the borrower does not correct the default by the deadline, lenders will then direct their attorneys to begin the foreclosure process. This can take on average three to six months or sometimes considerably longer, depending on the circumstances.
The foreclosure process formally begins when the homeowner (Defendant) is served with a Summons and Complaint of foreclosure by a process server, sheriff, or in some cases via publication in a newspaper. When served, the homeowner has 20 days to file a written response to the Complaint with the Clerk of the Court in the county the property is in, and must also send a copy to the attorney representing the Plaintiff (Lender) in the matter. Once served with a Summons, the Defendant should seek a legal representative to ensure that his/her rights are properly protected.
Homeowner options may include loss mitigation: This is the process in which Defendants can try to work out a solution with the Plaintiff before the property is lost to foreclosure sale. The process may include Loan Modifications (to save the property), or Short Sales and Deed in Lieu’s (to rid oneself of the property).
The loss mitigation process can take months to years to complete, which is why it is prudent to hire an attorney to represent one’s interests and to prevent the Plaintiff from moving straight to a conclusion of the foreclosure.
Finally, Florida is a Deficiency Judgment state. This means that one year from the sale of the property the Plaintiff may sue anyone who signed the promissory note for the difference owed from the sale. If they sue and are successful, they can collect upon this Deficiency Judgment for 20 years by garnishing wages or attaching assets with certain exemptions.