Although many homeowners consider bankruptcy as one of the last options to avoid losing a property, many seem unclear on just how late they can wait to file, and how it will affect the foreclosure lawsuit. They may believe that, since the bank has already sued for foreclosure, filing bankruptcy might not have the desired result of ending that lawsuit. However, it is still possible to file and seek protection of the courts even late into the process of losing the house.
Homeowners who have recently been foreclosed on can still file bankruptcy to avoid losing their homes even though the bank is pursuing foreclosure in the local courts. Just because the lender has initiated a lawsuit to take the house back does not mean that homeowners are unable to seek protection through the federal bankruptcy court system. In fact, it is precisely these types of collection efforts that the bankruptcy laws were set up to protect borrowers against.
Essentially, foreclosure proceedings are a collection attempt by mortgage companies to force homeowners to pay what they owe on the loan, or have their home auctioned off by the county government to satisfy the mortgage if there is no other way to pay the debt. There is nothing else secretive or fancy about the process, and it is little different from a credit card company or other creditor suing borrowers to force payment of a debt. The main difference is that the mortgage debt is secured by the property, so the bank has more of an ability to force the sale of the house.
Thus, homeowners are almost always able to file bankruptcy to stop foreclosure up until the time that they are no longer the owners of the home. This typically means that they can wait until just a few hours before the scheduled sheriff sale of the property to file the bankruptcy petition, and this will stop the foreclosure process from being able to continue. Of course, it is better to file before the very last minute, but sometimes homeowners are working on another solution that falls through and need to file an emergency bankruptcy.
Once a borrower files a petition with the bankruptcy courts, the automatic stay goes into effect, which precludes lenders from being able to continue collection efforts. Because the entire foreclosure lawsuit is a collection effort, the mortgage company will have to put its process on hold until the debt is resolved through bankruptcy, either through the payment plan or a dismissal. As can be expected, most lenders do not particularly want to deal with the extra hassle this causes, but they have no other choice than to put the foreclosure on hold.
So homeowners who are facing a foreclosure or have already been sued by the lender will be able to file bankruptcy and include the house in the petition anytime until the sheriff sale. After the auction, when ownership is transferred into the name of the new owner, then it will be too late to rely on this option to stop foreclosure, because the borrowers no longer have an ownership interest in the property. But as long as they do have title to the property, they can seek protection in bankruptcy court against the bank's collection efforts.
Although bankruptcy is usually considered to be little better than losing the home outright, owners may wish to keep the idea of filing as a last ditch effort if they need more time to stop foreclosure. Bankruptcy can always be used in self-defense just to buy more time, while homeowners fight for other solutions or defend themselves against the lawsuit. Unless they no longer own the house at all, it is possible for borrowers to file bankruptcy even if they are being sued by the lender for foreclosure.
Nick writes for the ForeclosureFish website and blog, which educate homeowners on how they can stop foreclosure on their homes while they still have time. visit the site to read more about the foreclosure process and what options may be used to end it, such as foreclosure loans, deed in lieu, bankruptcy, short sales, and more. The Foreclosure Fish Website is available here: http://www.foreclosurefish.com/