FORECLOSURE PROCESS IN MAINE
What is foreclosure?
Foreclosure is a civil lawsuit in which a bank, mortgage company or other lien holder seeks a court order to sell your property to satisfy a debt. If the court awards judgment to the lender, the lender can have the property sold at auction to pay off the mortgage debt. As a result of the foreclosure, you will lose whatever rights you have in the property.
From the filing of a foreclosure complaint to the auction sale of the property, the foreclosure process in Maine generally takes 10 to 16 months. As a homeowner, you can participate fully in the process, and you have the right to request free mediation at the courthouse. However, since foreclosure is a legal process, you must follow certain rules carefully to protect your rights.
Before a lender can start a foreclosure against you, the lender must deliver to you a Notice of default. You then have 35 days to make any overdue payments. If you don't pay the amount specified in the Notice of Default, the lender may start the foreclosure process.
Your lender may start the foreclosure lawsuit by filing a complaint with the court and by having you served with a Summonsand a copy of the Complaint.
The Summons tells you certain important information, such as the location of the court and the time limit for filing your response to the Complaint. The Complaintstates the plaintiff’s (bank or lender) position in the case, such as the nature of the default, the balance due on the mortgage, the identity of any other parties that may claim an interest in the property, and the request for a judgment ordering a sale of the property to satisfy the unpaid mortgage debt.
Filing an Answer
The first thing you should do is file a written Answer or Response. By filing a written Answer, you are telling the court that you are not ignoring the foreclosure and you want to participate in trying to save your house. Once you file the Answer, you will receive written notices of whatever is happening in court.
To make it easy for you to respond and to request court-supervised mediation, Maine law requires that when you are served with the other paperwork, the lendermust also provide you with a one-page Answer form that you can fill out, sign and return to the court in the envelope included. Each homeowner should complete his or her own form.
IMPORTANT: If you fail to file an Answer or ask for mediation within 20 (twenty) days after the sheriff serves the Summons and Complaint on you, you will lose certain rights and opportunities to save your home.
When you mail your Answer to the court, you should also send a copy of your Answer to the lawyer for the lender, so he or she knows you wish to participate in the process.
Once the court receives your written Answer and request for mediation, it will schedule an informational session to help you prepare your financial records. Then the court will schedule the actual mediation session. Carefully keep track of all court appointments, since if you do not appear you may lose the right to have your case mediated.
During this time you, your housing counselor or your lawyer can negotiate with the lender to see if you qualify for a loan modification program. If these negotiations are taking place, be certain that you don't forget about the ongoing court process. If the lender or a lawyer offers to temporarily stop the court process while you discuss alternatives, make sure you get that promise in writing, since some consumers receive an unpleasant surprise when they realize that the court process has continued while they thought they were negotiating on a loan modification plan.
Learn all you can about the mediation program by calling the court clerk or looking at information available on the Maine Judicial Branch's website.
If mediation is unsuccessful and if the court enters judgment against you, the property may be sold unless you are able to exercise your "right of redemption." This means that you need to find another source of financing and pay your current lender back the full amount of the mortgage loan, plus legal costs and fees (not just the payment arrears). The right of redemption exists for 90 days immediately following the court’s entry of the judgment. You have the right to remain in your home during the 90-day redemption period. During the redemption period you may continue to try to work with your lender to find an alternative to foreclosure, and you may have other legal avenues of which an attorney could advise you.
If you do not "redeem" the property within the redemption period, you do not own the property any more. When the redemption period ends, you can be evicted by the lender in a very short time frame (48 hours) and there will likely be no further court hearings before this happens. The lender is entitled to possession of the property regardless of how much, or little, you still owe, the season of the year, or any other reason.
Notice of Sale/Auction
The lender's next step is to hold a public sale of the property. Notice of the sale must be published in the paper. The sale is often at the office of the foreclosure attorney, who also runs the sale. At the sale, the lender may bid on the property. The property is sold to the highest bidder.
After receiving the money from the sale, the lender will pay off the mortgage loan balance. Any remaining sales proceeds will be paid to any other lien holders or to you, as the court orders the lender. If, however, the sale price is less than the amount owed to the lender, the lender may be able to hold you responsible for the balance.