When determining how to respond to a foreclosure summons, your first step should be to avoid panicking. Do not start packing your bags or planning to move in with relatives just yet. The foreclosure process can take several months, and you may have options to avoid foreclosure. That being said, do not ignore the foreclosure summons.
What Is a Foreclosure Summons?
The foreclosure summons document serves the purpose of informing you that a Mortgage Foreclosure Complaint has been filed against you. You must file an answer to the allegations if you wish to contest the foreclosure. The summons will also state how many days you have to file your response. If you don’t respond within the specified time frame, the foreclosure will occur according to the plan outlined in the complaint.
How to Respond to a Foreclosure Summons
Though responding to your foreclosure summons may seem overwhelming, it is not an insurmountable task. Here are the steps you should take to respond to a foreclosure summons.
Step 1: Read the Summons
You may be tempted to pretend that you never received the foreclosure summons. You might hide it in a desk drawer or shred it and use it as bedding for your child’s pet hamster. But none of those ideas are going to save your home. Your first step is to read the summons in its entirety. This will give you an understanding of the allegations and the deadlines you need to meet to properly respond to the foreclosure summons.
Step 2: Speak to Foreclosure Lawyer
Speaking to a foreclosure lawyer is the best way to clearly understand the options for your unique situation. The process for responding to a foreclosure summons involves forming a legal argument, filing documents with the court, and following rules of evidence. This can get complicated if you are not familiar with the legal system. An experienced foreclosure lawyer will know how you should proceed to achieve the best result for your situation and provide peace of mind throughout the process.
Step 3: Decide If You Want to Contest
In determining how to respond to a foreclosure summons, you should first decide if you want to contest the allegations. The benefits of contesting the foreclosure are that you could get the foreclosure dismissed and keep your home. At the very least you may get the foreclosure delayed and be able to spend more time in your home. If you have reason to believe that any of the information in the complaint is incorrect or that the plaintiff did not follow the law leading up to the foreclosure, contesting is a valid option.
Step 4: Prepare a Mortgage Foreclosure Appearance and Answer to the Complaint
Filling out the Mortgage Foreclosure Appearance and Answer Form tells the court that you were made aware of the pending foreclosure. The form asks a series of questions that provide you with the opportunity to state whether you agree with or disagree with what was stated in the Mortgage Foreclosure Complaint. Note that if you find yourself agreeing with everything in the complaint, you may want to reconsider contesting the foreclosure or seeking legal help. Section C is where you will state any defenses you have to the allegations and supply facts to support those defenses.
Step 5: File the Form with the Court Clerk
After you have completed the Mortgage Foreclosure Appearance and Answer Form, you must submit these documents electronically (e-file) with the court clerk in the county where the court case is filed. You may be exempt from e-filing if you are incarcerated and do not have an attorney, lack internet access, have a disability, or are not proficient in the English language. In any of those cases, you will need to fill out an exemption form. To file your documents electronically, you will need to set up an online account for filing with the court.
Step 6: Send a Copy of Your Answer to the Other Parties
You must send a copy of your filed Mortgage Foreclosure Appearance and Answer Form to the other parties in the foreclosure lawsuit. If the party has an attorney, that is the best place to send the documents. The appropriate address should be listed under the attorney signature on the original foreclosure summons.
The documents can be delivered a number of ways, including:
- Hand delivery,
- Regular mail,
- Third-party postal carrier (FedEx, DHL, UPS, etc), or
- Electronically through an approved e-filing service.
If the summons contains the party’s email address, that can also be used. Delivery confirmation is strongly recommended for whatever method is chosen.
Step 7: Prepare for Your First Court Appearance
This is a lawsuit, and by contesting the allegations, you are essentially saying that your home should not be foreclosed on and you are willing to go to court to prove why. It is important to gather all relevant documents and any other forms of proof to defend against the complaint allegations. This may include things like your mortgage payment history, loan modification request and other related documents. Make a list of any questions you would like to ask the judge. Consider any questions that you may be asked by the court and have those answers prepared.
Step 8: Attend Your Court Date
Upon filing your Mortgage Foreclosure Appearance and Answer to the Complaint Form, you should have received a court date and time from the court clerk. This may also arrive as a written notice. If you forget your court date information, contact the court clerk. It is a good idea to arrive at least 30 minutes early for your scheduled time. Sometimes finding the correct room can be a burden, so give yourself extra time.
Bring a copy of the Mortgage Foreclosure Complaint Summons and two copies of your answer form. When your case is called in the courtroom, you will walk up to the judge and introduce yourself. The judge will then direct you on how to proceed.
Choosing Not to Respond to the Foreclosure Summons
If you decide not to respond to the foreclosure summons, whether you just ignore it or use it as kindling for your fireplace, the court will enter a default judgment. This means that you automatically lose the court case and the plaintiff will be granted whatever was requested in the initial complaint. Usually this allows them to sell the property. If selling the property is not enough to make up for the absent mortgage payment, the plaintiff may file for a deficiency judgment which could require you to cover that cost.
How Vantage Group Legal Services Helps You Respond to a Foreclosure Summons
Though it is possible to navigate the legal system alone, an experienced attorney may be able to identify flaws in the foreclosure complaint that you may not notice. This could make a big difference in your chances of keeping your home. Vantage Group Legal Services works with expert foreclosure defense attorneys and can assign legal representation that fits your specific needs. For a free consultation, schedule with Vantage Group Legal Services through our online form or call (773) 938-4747.