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As you no doubt know a foreclosure is a lawsuit filed by your lender because you haven’t paid your mortgage. In Florida foreclosures are a judicial process which is why your lender had to go to court to try to get his money back. Once your lender filed for foreclosure the sheriff or a process server gave you your copy of the Summons and Complaint forms.
Yes I know all that, what do I do now?
Lawyers – The Necessary Evil
Your first step if you are going through a foreclosure is to call a lawyer. If this is the first you hear about problems with your mortgage you probably missed a default notice on your mortgage, which might provide you with ammunition for a counterclaim. In any case you should get a lawyer to have a look at your situation. Get the best lawyer you can afford. Contact the National Association of Consumer Advocates they can recommend a foreclosure law specialist. Alternatively, if you can’t afford a lawyer they can also recommend a program or charity that provides low-cost or free legal aid. Another option is to call the Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service (1-800-342-8011) and ask for the low-cost panel. Expect personal questions on your income. If you qualify they will assign you a private lawyer which will work for a reduced fee. If you do not qualify the referral service will give you the name of a regular attorney; the first consultation will cost $25.
Talk to your lawyer and ask for advice. This is especially important if you feel your lender has not been honest with you. Foreclosure lawyers can carry out a forensic audit on your mortgage and look for any illegal methods or terms used in the mortgage agreement or in the sale process. Most audits don’t show problems, but if your lawyer finds serious mistakes a judge could declare your mortgage void. Unfortunately many companies that offer foreclosure audits are scam artists preying on vulnerable borrowers. Make sure you use a trustworthy and experienced lawyer.
Reply to the Summons and Complaint
You now must reply to the Summons and Complaint form. First, read the documents carefully. They will tell you what your lender’s complaint is, and instructs you on what to do next. Include in your answer a reply to any statements you think are not true or wrong. You should also explain why you think the court should not allow the foreclosure to continue. These are called “affirmative defenses”. For instance you could claim the lender did not follow Florida foreclosure procedure, or refused to work with you when you were trying to avoid foreclosure.
Check the amount the lender claims you owe. If you think there is a mistake or they are claiming excessive foreclosure costs, include this in your reply. Don’t forget to write your full name and contact details. You should also mention you have mailed a copy to your lender’s attorney. Make sure you do send a copy to the mortgage company’s lawyer. You should find the contact details in the Summons and Complaint documents.
Finally, make several copies of your answer and take the original to Clerk’s office. Filing your answer is free. Ask the clerk to give you a stamped copy for your own records.
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