Delaware is among several states that use a judicial process to foreclose on homeowners who are delinquent on their mortgage. Delaware's judicial foreclosure is a lengthy process and offers you opportunities to work with the lender to seek alternatives and additional time to stay in the house. Understanding when you can legally have your say and stop or postpone the foreclosure process might give you time to find more suitable housing or bring your loan up to date.
In Delaware, the foreclosure process begins once you become three to four payments behind on your mortgage. While participation is not mandatory, you become eligible for mediation with your lender through the state's mediation program. Your first opportunity to stop the foreclosure process, the state's mediation program allows you, the lender and a neutral third party to sit down and discuss alternatives. Alternatives might include a forbearance, loan modification, deed in lieu of foreclosure or a short sale. The state requires you to contact a housing counselor to begin the process.
If mediation fails and the lender is unwilling to seek alternatives with you, the lender's representative will file a complaint with the state. Once a complaint is filed against you, you have approximately 20 days to respond to the complaint through the state. This is your opportunity to contest the foreclosure or plead your case as to why the foreclosure should not proceed. If the court rules against you and declares you're in default on your mortgage, the sale of your home will begin in earnest.
Over the next one to three months, the lender will have the home appraised and set a date to sell it. The lender must give you 10 days notice prior to sale and publish the date of the sale in several places and place a notice on your home. The lender will auction off the home at a sheriff's sale and transfer ownership to the highest bidder. Transferring ownership will take 30 to 90 days to complete, on average.
Throughout the foreclosure process, you may stay in your home unless the lender sends written notice stating otherwise. Once the confirmation of sale is completed and ownership is transferred, you will have 10 to 14 days to leave your home. If you choose not to leave, the new owner can legally begin an eviction process almost immediately to remove you. At this point, if you haven't made other arrangements, the sheriff is legally obligated to remove you and your belongings from the house.
Monica Dillon has more than 10 years experience in real estate sales, marketing, investing and appraising. She specializes in energy efficiency building practices and renewable energy. Dillon has been syndicated by the National Newspaper Publisher's Association. Her work has also appeared in the "Journal Of Progressive Human Services."