A foreclosure attorney represents either a bank or a homeowner during the foreclosure process. Foreclosure is the legal term in the United States for a judgment in which a bank repossesses a home for nonpayment of the mortgage. Foreclosure lawyers represent the parties involved in such a legal action.
Foreclosure law in the United States is determined on a state by state basis. Generally, however, the process begins when the homeowner is late on his payments. Most banks will begin calling and contacting the buyer to attempt to collect late payments immediately, but they will not begin the formal foreclosure process until a homeowner is several months behind on his mortgage.
Homeowners may try to delay the foreclosure process by requesting to see the original promissory note. If a mortgage has been transferred from lender to lender, it may be difficult for the bank to find this note. A foreclosure attorney who is representing the homeowner can help the homeowner make such a request and can also help the homeowner come up with other delay tactics to delay the foreclosure for as long as possible.
Delay tactics may be helpful to a homeowner who is experiencing temporary financial setbacks or struggles. For example, an attorney can contest each step in the foreclosure process to attempt to buy a homeowner more time. Attorneys may also be able to help homeowners negotiate with lenders to facilitate a short sale, which is typically less detrimental to a borrower's credit score than a foreclosure and less expensive for the bank.
When a homeowner has fallen several months behind, typically the bank will begin the formal foreclosure process. This generally involves filing notice of default with the clerk or another court official. A foreclosure attorney who is representing the bank can file this notice on behalf of the bank.
The county clerk, or appropriate official within the jurisdiction, then sends the borrower a formal notice of default or a demand letter. This letter usually stipulates what the buyer must do to become current on the mortgage and stop the foreclosure. In other words, it specifies exactly when and how much the borrower must pay, in full, to stop the legal action.
The borrower can then either make full payment or his foreclosure attorney can try to work out an agreement or arrangement with the court or lender. Usually, by this point, it is too late to refinance or come up with a payment plan, but the attorney can still assist the homeowner in exploring his options. The attorney can also attempt to facilitate further delays in the foreclosure process.
If the homeowner does not make payments to make his mortgage current after the demand letter has been sent, foreclosure continues. A notice is placed in the newspaper and the home usually becomes property of a trustee. A foreclosure attorney who represents the lending institute facilitates the transfer of the property during this time. Finally, the home is put up for sale at a foreclosure or sheriffs sale, and a lender's foreclosure attorney may assist with any legal steps necessary to make the home ready for sale.