What Happens If You Don't Answer a Foreclosure Summons?

A foreclosure summons is a notice to a homeowner that the judicial foreclosure process has begun. It's important for a homeowner to answer a foreclosure summons if he wants to contest the foreclosure. Not answering a foreclosure summons will not stop the foreclosure or make it go away.

What is a Foreclosure Summons?

Typically, the foreclosure process begins when a mortgage payment is at least 30 days past due. When this occurs, the mortgage lender sends a notice of foreclosure. It's important for a homeowner to get in touch with the lender at this point and attempt to work out a payment arrangement. If the notice goes unanswered, the lender will begin the judicial foreclosure process by filing for foreclosure in court. At this point, the homeowner is sent a foreclosure summons and complaint, which serves as official notice of foreclosure proceedings.

What Happens if You Don't Answer?

Homeowners must respond by answering the summons and complaint. Homeowners have a prescribed number of days to answer a foreclosure summons; the number of days varies from state to state. If the homeowner fails to answer within the prescribed number of days, it will likely result in a default judgment against the homeowner. This means the homeowner loses the case by default, and by extension, will likely lose his home.

How to Answer

In states without mediation programs, answer forms can be obtained online or by visiting the court in which the foreclosure complaint was filed. The summons and complaint usually include directions regarding how to obtain an answer form, how long the homeowner has to answer and where the answer must be filed.

Additional Considerations

Many states offer answer forms through their state court's websites. Certain states — Connecticut, for instance — offer mediation, which allows the foreclosed-upon homeowner to enter into a mediation program with the mortgage lender; this gives the homeowner a chance to work out a payment plan with the mortgage lender. In states that offer mediation, notice of a mediation program is typically included with the summons and complaint. In states with mediation programs, homeowners might have to file an appearance form with a foreclosure mediation certificate.