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What is the foreclosure process in Pennsylvania?

As soon as you miss a couple of mortgage payments, you will probably hear from your lender. Don't ignore their phone calls and letters. Instead, make an honest assessment of when and whether you expect to be able to catch up on your payments. Your lender may be willing to help you. If not, you need to understand the foreclosure process.

At each step in the process, an attorney experienced in foreclosure defense may be able to help you. A lawyer can negotiate with your lender or protect your rights during the foreclosure process.

Before the foreclosure is filed

During the first four months of delinquency, you should consider how to limit the damage. One option to consider is selling your house. You can also negotiate with your lender on options to avoid foreclosure, such as:

  • Forbearance (holding off on foreclosure while you get back on your feet)
  • Loan modification
  • Affordable payment plan
  • Short sale (selling your home for less than you owe)
  • Deed in lieu of foreclosure (agreement to return title to the lender without the foreclosure process)

The Pennsylvania foreclosure process

Many Pennsylvania mortgages contain a requirement that the lender send you a breach or demand letter before they can file for foreclosure.

Pennsylvania law also requires lenders to send you a notice of intent to foreclose before they can start the foreclosure process. Also, the lender must send you a second notice which explains your rights and any help available through state programs.

In Pennsylvania, foreclosure is a judicial, or lawsuit-based process. The lender begins the foreclosure process by filing a complaint. You then have 20 days to respond. If you do not, you will be given 10 additional days to respond before a default judgment is entered against you.

Your response is where you can answer each allegation in the foreclosure complaint. You can deny any allegations you feel are inaccurate, and you can offer certain legal defenses and any claims against the lender you may have.

In some counties, you may be referred for a foreclosure diversion program where you can negotiate an agreement with the lender.

If you cannot work out a deal, your lender may file a motion for summary judgment, which alleges that you have no real dispute or defense. Alternatively, there may be a trial. If you lose either the motion for summary judgment or trial, the court will enter what is called a final judgment of foreclosure.

The next step is the foreclosure sale. Pennsylvania law gives you another chance to pay off the past-due balance, along with costs and fees. This can be done up to an hour before the foreclosure sale.

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