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What is the foreclosure process in Florida?

Learning that your house is in foreclosure is a scary time for many homeowners. This is a natural response. The prospect of losing your home would be frightening to almost anyone.

Another part of the fear surrounding foreclosure could be the fact that those who have never been foreclosed upon before may not know how it works in Florida. As in most states, banks and other creditors must follow a specific process when foreclosing on a property owner. Failure to follow the procedure could lead to a delay or even cancellation of the foreclosure.

Here is a summary of how foreclosure works in Florida:

  • Lis Pendens. If a property owner falls behind on mortgage payments, the lender may file notice of a pending lawsuit in court. This is known as a Lis Pendens. The lender must provide notice of the Lis Pendens to the borrower, either by mail, by publishing the notice, or by personal service.
  • Response period. Once he or she has received notice of the pending suit, the borrow has 20 days to respond. If the homeowner does not respond in that time, the lender can ask the court for a default judgment. Among other things, this could give the lender the right to sell the property.
  • Discovery. If the borrower defends against the foreclosure suit, the case enters the discovery stage. During this time, the homeowner's attorney can obtain evidence from the bank, to determine the strength of its claim and find possible holes in its case, such as missing documents.
  • Summary judgment. The bank will probably file for summary judgment. Under summary judgment, the court finds that there is no dispute of material facts and that one side is entitled to judgment.
  • Trial. If the court denies summary judgment, the foreclosure then goes to trial. The bank will present evidence that it is entitled to foreclose on your house. This is relatively rare. If the homeowner has a valid defense, the bank will likely be willing to settle the case.
  • Sale. If foreclosure is approved, a sale date is set within 20-35 days, depending on the jurisdiction. The sale is usually held at the courthouse.

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