General Information on Foreclosure
Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
- What is Foreclosure?
- What Notice Will I Receive?
- How can I Stop a Scheduled Foreclosure Sale?
- What if I Cannot Afford to Keep my Home?
- What if a Foreclosure Sale Has Already Taken Place?
- Watch out for Foreclosure Rescue Scams!
- Glossary of Foreclosure Terms
- Foreclosure Videos
- Interactive Guided Online Program
- Additional Resources
What is Foreclosure?
Foreclosure is the legal process that allows your mortgage lender to sell your house and use the money to pay back unpaid debt.
In Georgia, almost all foreclosures happen without a court hearing
The mortgage company usually does not need to take you to court in order to foreclose on your home (the legal term for this is non-judicial foreclosure). To foreclose, the lender only has to follow special rules to notify you.
What Notice Will I Receive?
- For most mortgages, notice must be sent to you no less than 30 days before the foreclosure sale by certified, registered, or overnight mail.
- The foreclosure sale must be advertised in the local legal newspaper once a week, for four weeks in a row before the scheduled foreclosure sale date. The notice must state the name, address, and telephone number of someone with the power to make changes to your mortgage. This person might be able to help you avoid foreclosure.
- Foreclosure sales in Georgia occur on the first Tuesday of each month on the courthouse steps between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Remember: Foreclosure is not the same as eviction. You cannot be evicted until after the foreclosure sale. You don't have to leave your home until you are legally evicted.
See the What to Know if Your Home is in Foreclosure brochure
How can I Stop a Scheduled Foreclosure Sale?
You may be able to:
Pay off the Amount Overdue on a Mortgage (the legal term for this is paying the arrears). In most cases, the mortgage company will accept payments (and not the full balance due) to stop the foreclosure. Make sure you get written confirmation from the mortgage company or foreclosing lawyer that the scheduled foreclosure sale has been cancelled.
Work out a Payment Agreement with the Mortgage Company. Here are a few examples of possible agreements:
- Repayment Plan: You may be able to continue making your regular payments and pay extra each month until you are caught up.
- Forbearance Agreement: You may be allowed to make reduced payments, or to not make payments, for a short period of time. The total of all your missed payments is usually due at the end of the forbearance period.
- Reverse Mortgage: If you are a senior homeowner, you may get time to pay off your mortgage using the proceeds of a reverse mortgage. Please contact a lawyer or HUD Certified hosuing counselor to understand how Reverse Mortgages work.
- Loan Modification: If you have money to make payments on your loan but you do not have enough to pay the full amount each month, your lender may agree to change the terms of your loan to lower the monthly amount. For example, they might reduce your interest rate or extend the length of your loan. You can apply for a loan modification as soon as you think you may have trouble making your regular mortgage payment. You do not have to be in default to apply for a loan modification.
See the Tips for Homeowners Facing Default or in Foreclosure brochure and the Tips for Homeowners in Default or Facing Foreclosure in Spanish and English brochure for more information and tips for loan modifications.
Make sure to get written confirmation from the mortgage company or foreclosing lawyer that the scheduled foreclosure sale has been cancelled.
File Bankruptcy Before the Foreclosure Sale and notify the foreclosure lawyer. The bankruptcy may include a repayment plan. Make sure to get an attorney to represent you.
For more information on Bankruptcy, see the Can Bankruptcy Help Me Save My House brochure
File a Lawsuit: If you believe you have legal claims to challenge the mortgage loan or foreclosure in court, talk with a lawyer right away. A lawsuit can be filed in superior court, and a temporary restraining order (TRO) can possibly be obtained to stop the scheduled foreclosure sale.
What if I Cannot Afford to Keep my Home?
Sell the Home Before the Foreclosure Sale: You may have to think about selling your home. You should give this serious thought if you have equity (the money you get from the sale after you subtract the mortgage payment) in your home.
For more information on figuring out the equity in your home, see the FAQ's on Home Equity page.
- Make sure to get an experienced real estate agent. If you have equity, do a “full” sale, meaning that the sale proceeds will pay off the mortgage loan(s) completely, pay the real estate agent commission, and pay you the rest of the proceeds.
- Beware of short sales, which means selling the house for an amount less than the mortgage balance. Because the sale may not pay off all that you owe, your lender could sue you for the rest of the money, or you could possibly face income tax problems.
Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure: This is an option when there is NO equity in the home. This means that your lender agrees to take ownership of your property, and in exchange they forgive the money you owe.
Cash-for-Keys: Your lender may agree to pay you to move out by an agreed upon date. Make sure the agreement releases you from all liability on the mortgage loan. Otherwise your lender could sue you for the rest of the money, or you could possibly face income tax problems.
Bankruptcy: Bankruptcy law is complex, so if you are considering this option you should find an attorney to represent you.
Note: Any option that results in the transfer of your home may have tax consequences, so you should talk with a tax professional.
What if a Foreclosure Sale Has Already Taken Place?
After a foreclosure sale, you no longer own the home and the buyer can file a warrant if you fail to leave after a written demand to do so (also called a dispossessory warrant). The buyer at the foreclosure sale is typically the mortgage company but may be an individual.
The Post-Foreclosure Dispossessory Process is as follows:
- The county marshals may serve you with the dispossessory warrant by posting the warrant on the front door of your home.
- Once you have been served, you have seven (7) days to file an answer in court.
- Generally, a trial in court is scheduled about a week or so after the answer is filed.
- If the judge rules against you, the judge will give you seven (7) days to move.
- If you remain in the property after the deadline given by the judge, the county marshals could come at any time without warning and remove you and your family from the property and put all of your belongings out on the street.
Note: If you do not file an answer right away or do not attend the court hearing the process might speed up
The Buyer at the Foreclosure Sale May Offer You Cash-for-Keys: The buyer may offer to pay you to move out all family belongings by a certain date. Consider this an option if you really believe you can obey the written terms by the deadline given.
Wrongful Foreclosure: If you believe you have legal claims for wrongful foreclosure, talk with a lawyer immediately. If your goal is to remain in the home, your lawyer will need to act quickly.
Watch out for Foreclosure Rescue Scams!
See the Home Scams Resource for more information about home scams to look out for
Interactive Guided Online Program
About the Interactive Foreclosure Guide
- This program allow you to fill in your information, walks you through your foreclosure situation and problems, and may help you to complete court forms.
- These guides asks a lot of questions about your housing situation. It may take about a half an hour to finish.
- To use these program, you must have Adobe Flash to see the guide: Download Adobe Flash for free.