When you fall behind on your first mortgage payment, it can feel as though the threat of foreclosure is imminent. However, even after the four missed payments required for a lender to pursue foreclosure, action is not always taken immediately. In fact, it may take years before the bank takes the necessary steps to foreclose on your home.
Needless to say, having foreclosure hanging over your head for an extended period of time can be stressful. Will your debts come back to haunt you? Will you be removed from your home a decade after falling behind on payments? Thankfully, you can rest assured that the time frame to initiate foreclosure is not indefinite.
How long do banks have to initiate foreclosure?
The statute of limitations for foreclosure places a time limit on lenders who seek to begin foreclosure proceedings in Florida. In a broad sense, that limit is five years from the time of default. However, there is debate over whether that clock runs continuously or if it can be restarted by subsequent defaults or alternative actions taken by the debtor. While the law has not always been clear on this issue, recent case law has provided a more definitive answer.
When exactly does the clock start?
Last year, the Florida Supreme Court delivered its opinion in Bartram v. U.S. Bank, N.A., providing a more concrete look at when the statute of limitations for foreclosure begins. The case involved a debtor who had defaulted on a mortgage and been served with a foreclosure complaint in 2006. That complaint was dismissed in 2011, and the following year the debtor sough to quiet title the property citing an acceleration of the loan at the onset of the foreclosure process in 2006. The borrower held that this initiated the statute of limitations, and thus the timeframe to foreclose on the home had passed. Though the trial court sided in the mortgagor’s favor, the Fifth District Court of Appeal and Florida Supreme Court would rule in favor of the bank. In doing so, the court held that subsequent defaults reset the clock in regards to the statute of limitations. Furthermore, the dismissal of the initial foreclosure action without prejudice had no bearing on the clock’s reset, given the additional defaults that followed it.
Relying on this opinion, it is important to keep in mind that though the statute of limitations exists to protect borrowers from significant delays in the foreclosure process, it does not offer permanent protection if defaults continue to occur. With this in mind, it is essential to take the steps to cure the mortgage or explore alternatives to foreclosure from the time of the first missed payment.
Struggling to keep up with mortgage payments? The time to consult with an experienced foreclosure defense attorney is now. Call our office to schedule your free consultation so that we may begin seeking justice, together.