Here are some common terms that come up in Connecticut foreclosures. I hope these help you better understand the process!
“Return Date” You will see this date on the summons if you are served with a foreclosure case. The return date is NOT a deadline for the homeowner; it is actually a Connecticut-specific term that is a deadline for the Plaintiff (in a foreclosure case, that’s your bank or mortgage lender) to serve you with the foreclosure suit and “return” it to court with proof that you have been served. That’s it! Some time deadlines start to run from this date, but it is NOT a court appearance date or hearing date. You don’t have to do anything or go anywhere prior to or on your return date.
“Appearance” This is just a form you fill out with your name, address, phone number and email (if applicable) and file with the court to inform the court that you are going to represent yourself; or if you have a lawyer, your lawyer fills out the appearance form to let the court and other parties know you now have an attorney.
“Mediation” Connecticut has a free foreclosure mediation program open to most homeowners who have been served with foreclosure papers (you have to reside in the property and be a borrower on the mortgage). Mediation can be very helpful to communicate with your lender because the lender’s attorney must attend certain mediation sessions and even get a representative from the bank on the phone if needed. The mediators can also be very helpful in assisting homeowners organize their financial paperwork to apply for a modification of their mortgage.
“Modification” Many homeowners who are behind on their mortgage payments cannot afford to pay all the money needed to catch up. When that occurs, the lender will review a modification application for the homeowner’s eligibility for a recalculation of the past due payments and other charges. Modification is the most common tool used by homeowners to remain in their homes and get back on track with their mortgage payments.
“Summary Judgment” In Connecticut, the foreclosure process is through the courts. When a foreclosure case cannot be resolved by mediation and modification or some other option, the Plaintiff will file motions to move the case toward a judgment of foreclosure. One major step in this process, if the homeowner has filed an Answer in the suit, is the filing of a motion for summary judgment, which is usually done by the Plaintiff but can be filed by any party. This motion essentially states to the court that everyone agrees on the facts of the case, so the judge can make a finding that the Plaintiff has the right to foreclose. I tell homeowners that the granting of a motion for summary judgment is only “half way” toward a complete foreclosure; the Plaintiff still has to file at least one other motion for the foreclosure to be finalized.
“Motion for Strict Foreclosure” This is one of two different motions the Plaintiff can file asking the court to enter a final order of foreclosure. In Connecticut, we use the term “strict foreclosure” when a home does not have any equity (that is, when the total mortgage debt owed to the Plaintiff is more than the value of the home). If an order of strict foreclosure enters in a case, there is no foreclosure auction (with one exception, see below) so there is no foreclosure auction sign. Instead, at the hearing on a motion for strict foreclosure, the judge enters an order issuing a “law day” (see below).
“Motion for Foreclosure by Sale” This is the other motion the Plaintiff can file asking the court to enter a final order of foreclosure. Only if your home has equity (you owe less than the fair market value of the home) or if the IRS has a tax lien on your property, does the judge enter a foreclosure by sale. The sale date will be set for a Saturday usually about 2-3 months after the hearing date. A foreclosure auction sign will go up on the property as early as 4 weeks before the auction date.
“Law Day” This is the term used in Connecticut foreclosures to designate a deadline for a homeowner to resolve the past due mortgage payments or else title to the property will revert back to the Plaintiff once this day passes. It is very difficult to reverse a law day; that is, once a law day passes, only under extraordinary circumstances have our courts permitted homeowners second chances. It is vital to take action before a law day to ensure that foreclosure is not completed. If a law day is set in your case, it is usually necessary to retain an attorney for assistance.