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The process of Florida home foreclosure

A person's home is his or her castle. That's a paraphrase of the old saying. Some might dispute the truth of the statement, but it's hard to imagine anyone who has succeeded in securing a Florida home being be among them.

Whether the property is a permanent residence or a vacation getaway used intermittently, there is pride of ownership. The last thing you want to see happen is for the mortgage lender to snatch the property through foreclosure action.

Learn the ropes

If this represents any sort of concern for you as a homeowner, the first best defense is to understand that knowledge is power. To that end, here are some of the legal requirements for foreclosure processes as laid out by state law.

The first step is the filing of the action by the lender in Florida court. Included as part of that action is an obligation to inform the borrower through a summons and providing a formal written complaint. The homeowner then has 20 days to respond to the court. It may also be possible to erase the cause of action, often stemming from missed payments, by making good on the amount owed.

If the court rules in favor of the lender, the law calls for sale of the property between 20 and 35 days of the judgment, unless the order specifies otherwise. The lender also must run notices in the local newspaper for two consecutive weeks before the sale.

Special protections

Florida law also provides for several special protections for homeowners. For example, homeowners have a window of time, up until when the certificate of sale is filed by the court, to pay off the owed amount. That window could be greater if so specified by the court in the foreclosure judgment.

Military personnel on active duty enjoy protection against foreclosure for as long as that service lasts and possibly for up to 30 days after service ends.

Word of caution

As with most laws, Florida law includes a statute of limitations. It states that foreclosure actions must start within five years of default. Questions about when the clock starts ticking had been debated for a long time. Was it when the first default occurred or otherwise? By virtue of court rulings in recent years, the answer is that the clock restarts with each new default on the loan payment.

This is not a comprehensive explanation of what can happen in foreclosure. Still, what's clear is that the law on foreclosure is complicated and that defending homeowners' rights through the litigation process is equally so.

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