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Foreclosure Responsibilities And Obligations

Sep 12, 2008
Foreclosures are generally referred to as Mortgagee sales or Mortgagee auctions. In those cases, the bank or lender forces the borrower to sell under the terms of the loan contract. Foreclosure is a little used remedy which vests the property in the mortgagee with the mortgagor having no right to any surplus from the sale. Because this remedy can be harsh, courts almost never allow it. Instead, they will usually grant an order for possession and an order for sale, which mitigates some of the harshness of the repossession by allowing the sale.

The mortgagor may be required to pay for Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI, for as long as the principal of his primary mortgage is above 80% of the value of his property. In most situations, insurance requirements are sufficient to guarantee that the lender will get some pre-defined percentage of the loan value back, either from foreclosure auction proceeds or from PMI or a combination thereof.

Nevertheless, in an illiquid real estate market or following a significant drop in real estate prices, it may happen that the property being foreclosed is sold for less than the remaining balance on the primary mortgage loan, and there may be no insurance to cover the loss. In this case, the court overseeing the foreclosure process may enter a deficiency judgment against the mortgagor. Deficiency judgments can be used to place a lien on the borrower's other property that obligates the mortgagor to repay the difference. It gives lender a legal right to collect the remainder of debt out of mortgagor's other assets (if any).

There are exceptions to this rule, however. If the mortgage is a non-recourse debt (which is often the case with residential mortgages), lender may not go after borrower's assets to recoup his losses. Lender's ability to pursue deficiency judgment may be restricted by state laws. In California and some other states, original mortgages (the ones taken out at the time of purchase) are typically non-recourse loans, however, refinanced loans and home equity lines of credit aren't.

The borrower may have to pay income taxes on the unrepaid amount if it can be considered "forgiven debt." However, recent changes in tax laws may change the way these amounts are reported.

Any liens resulting from other loans taken out against the property being foreclosed (second mortgages, HELOCs) are "wiped out" by foreclosure, but the borrower is still obligated to pay those loans off if they are not paid out of foreclosure auction's proceeds.
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