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What to know about a foreclosure

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Foreclosure laws in Georgia Tips Resources

Foreclosure laws in Georgia

What should I know? +

Contents


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 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.


In Georgia, foreclosure sales occur on the first Tuesday of each month between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m on the courthouse steps.

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What are my rights?

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.

For most foreclosures, a notice must be sent to you by certified, registered, or overnight mail no less than 30 days before the sale.

The foreclosure sale must be advertised in the local 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 connected with the mortgage lender who has the power to make changes to your mortgage. This person might be able to help you avoid foreclosure.

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What are my responsibilities if a foreclosure sale has already taken place?

After a foreclosure sale, you are no longer the homeowner. The buyer is the new owner and can seek an eviction if you fail to leave after a written demand to do so.

The Post-Foreclosure Dispossessory Process:

  1. The company or individual who purchased your home at the foreclosure sale must go to court and file a dispossessory (eviction) warrant. The county marshals will deliver the warrant or post it on your home's front door.
  2. Once you have been served, you have seven days to file an answer in court. If you do not file a timely answer, you could be evicted immediately.

  3. Generally, a trial in court is scheduled about a week or so after the answer is filed.

  4. If you attend the trial, even if the judge rules against you, the judge will give you seven days to move.

  5. If you stay in your home after the judge's deadline, the county marshals can come at any time without warning. They can put you, your family, and your belongings on the street.

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How do I protect my rights?

Talk with a lawyer immediately if you believe you have legal claims for wrongful foreclosure. If your goal is to remain in the home, your lawyer will need to act quickly.

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What can I do? +

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How can I stop a scheduled foreclosure sale?

You could try to work out a payment agreement with the mortgage company. Get a written confirmation from the mortgage company or the foreclosing lawyer that the scheduled sale has been cancelled.

Here are a few examples of possible payment agreements:

  • Pay off your mortgage: The legal term for paying off the amount overdue on a mortgage is arrears. In most cases, the mortgage company will accept payments to stop foreclosure.

  • Repayment plan: You may be able to continue making your regular payments and pay extra each month until you catch up.

  • Forbearance agreement: For a short time, you may be allowed to make reduced payments or to not make payments. 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. Contact a lawyer or a HUD Certified housing counselor to understand how reverse mortgages work.

  • Loan modification: If you do not have enough money to pay the full amount each month, your lender may agree to change the terms of your loan. Your lender could lower the monthly amount. For example, they might reduce your interest rate or extend the length of your loan. As soon as you think you may have trouble making your regular payments, apply for a loan modification.

If you do not work out a payment agreement with the mortgage company, consider filing bankruptcy or a lawsuit before the foreclosure sale.

  • File bankruptcy: You may be able to file bankruptcy before the foreclosure sale. Notify the foreclosure lawyer. The bankruptcy may include a repayment plan. Make sure to get an attorney to represent you.
  • File a lawsuit: If you have legal claims to challenge the mortgage loan or foreclosure, speak to a lawyer right away. You can file a lawsuit in superior court where you may be able to get a temporary restraining order to stop the scheduled foreclosure sale.

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What can I do if I cannot afford to keep my home?

Sell the home before the foreclosure sale: You may have to think about selling your home. Make sure to get an experienced real estate agent. You should give this serious thought if you have equity in your home. You have equity when your home is worth more than what you owe on the mortgage. If you have equity, do a “full” sale. This means 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.

Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure: This is an option when there is no equity in the home. It means that your lender agrees to take ownership of your property. In exchange, they forgive the money you owe.

Cash-for-Keys: The buyer may offer to pay you to move out all family belongings by a certain date. Consider this option if you believe you can obey the written terms by the deadline given. 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 face income tax problems.

Bankruptcy: Bankruptcy law is complex. If you are considering this option, you should find an attorney to represent you.

Please note, any option that results in the transfer of your home may have tax consequences. You should talk with a tax professional if you have any questions.

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Tips

  • Apply for a loan modification in writing. If you qualify, a loan modification may reduce your interest rate and/or your monthly payment. It could also extend the loan term, and reduce some of the principal balance.
  • Keep copies! Keep copies of your application and all supporting documents. This includes fax cover sheets, receipts, and tracking numbers.

  • Stay in touch with your mortgage company. Keep calling and following up with your mortgage company. Keep records of your communications – including letters, emails. Write down the names, dates, times, numbers, and content of all telephone communications.

  • Watch out for foreclosure scams! Do not pay anyone for help in getting a loan modification - it is most likely a scam. Seek free help from a HUD-approved housing counselor. A housing counselor can determine whether you qualify for a loan modification. They can also help and see if you have other options based on your type of loan, hardship, and household budget. See the Home Scams Resource for more information about home scams to look out for.

  • Explore your options. Depending on your mortgage type, your options may vary. Check to see if you have an FHA or VA loan or a loan owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Your mortgage company may offer you a variety of workout options.

  • Consider applying for HomeSafe Georgia. For more information, visit the HomeSafe Georgia website or call 1-877-519-4443. You may qualify for the Mortgage Principal Reduction program if you are:

    • Struggling due to financial misfortune (including the death of a spouse)

    • Awarded full disability

    • Moved from involuntary unemployment to Social Security

  • If you are selling your home to avoid foreclosure, beware of short sales. This 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 face income tax problems.

  • If you are facing foreclosure, take it seriously. Do not ignore a foreclosure letter, even if you are in the middle of getting a loan modification.

  • Always get a written confirmation if the scheduled foreclosure sale is cancelled. If you do not have written confirmation, have a back-up plan. For example, you can file a bankruptcy before the scheduled foreclosure. A completed foreclosure can be very difficult to reverse.

  • Be realistic. If you have savings or a retirement fund, do not exhaust them to hold onto a home with no equity or that you have little chance of keeping. Be realistic about your options. A home is important, but it is not worth sacrificing your entire financial future.


Terms

Arrears (Arrearage): The amount overdue on a mortgage.

Forbearance: A temporary agreement to postpone or reduce your loan payments for a set period of time.

Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure: When your lender agrees to take ownership of your property in exchange they forgive the money you owe.

Dispossessory: A warrant filed against you to vacate your home if you have failed to do so after being demanded

Equity: The current market value of the property minus any debts owed on the property.

Foreclosure: The legal term for what happens when the lender takes your house to pay your overdue mortgage payments and loans off.

Loan Modification: When the lender agrees to change the original mortgage term so that you can afford to pay it each month. For example, your interest rate may be reduced or the length of your loan may be extended.

Market value: The likely selling price of a home that is usually determined by an appraiser. The market value includes improvements you have made on the home, and the value of the surrounding homes.

Non-Judicial Foreclosure: The mortgage lender does not need to take you to court in order to foreclose.

Short sale: Selling the house for an amount less than the mortgage balance, in which case your lender could sue you for the rest of the money or could result in income tax problems.

Resources


About the Interactive Foreclosure Guide

  • This program allows 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 this program, you must have Adobe Flash to see the guide: Download Adobe Flash for free.

Screenshot of the foreclosure interactive guide

Start the Online Foreclosure Guide

Note: You will be taken to our partner website called LawHelp Interactive. You can Sign Up to Save Your Work or go directly to the program without signing up by clicking on Get Started or Go. Then check to agree to the Terms of Use and click on Continue to begin the program.

These forms are only for users who don't have a lawyer, legal services, pro bono attorneys, and staff helping clients who cannot afford lawyers. Commercial use is prohibited and no one may charge for using these programs. When you begin the program, you will be asked to accept these terms of use.


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Last Review and Update: Aug 26, 2019