Imagine coming home after a long day at work, only to find your house padlocked and all of your belongings thrown to the curb.
The scenario may sound unrealistic for most of us, but for a number of homeowners who are behind on their mortgage payments, it’s an everyday reality.
What A Mortgage Company Can and Can’t Do
Luckily, the truth is not that bad. When your mortgage company can enter your property depends on whether the house is occupied.
If you are current on your mortgage payments, then you have nothing to worry about. However, it’s when you have fallen behind that things can become a bit unclear.
If the house is occupied, the mortgage company cannot enter the house, without your permission, until after a sheriff’s sale has taken place.
If the house is not occupied, the mortgage company can have a representative forcibly enter the house, winterize the property (turn off water, gas, etc.) and change the locks to prevent vandals from damaging the property. This can happen before formal foreclosure proceedings have started and before a sheriff’s sale.
The mortgage company will send people to look at the house periodically to see whether it appears to be occupied and whether the house is in good shape. A couple of the things they look for are uncut grass and mail that has piled up. This is not an exact science, as Anthony and Alexandra Hlista found out.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story about the Hlistas' situation. The Hlistas split their time between Pittsburgh and South Carolina, where Mrs. Hlista attends nursing school.
They had fallen behind in mortgage payments, but were unaware that the mortgage company had any right to enter their home because they were not even in foreclosure yet. Nevertheless, the mortgage company sent a representative to view the property while the Hlistas were in South Carolina.
To the representative, it appeared that the house was vacant. The representative entered the home and changed the locks. When the Hlistas came home from South Carolina, they were shocked to find their locks had been changed and their windows nailed shut. While the Hlistas were allowed back in their home, they were, understandably, very upset by what happened and have sued their mortgage company because they didn’t feel what happened to them was right.
What to Expect When You're Late
If you have fallen behind in your mortgage payments, it is especially important to educate yourself about your rights and those of your mortgage company.
When you obtained your mortgage, you had to sign a lot of papers with a lot of small print, most of which you probably never read. Once you’ve fallen behind in payments, as long as you continue to live in your home you never have to worry about the mortgage company getting into your house.
However, if you abandon the property, or even if the property appears to be abandoned, as the Hlistas found out, your mortgage company does have the right to enter your home before a foreclosure or sheriff’s sale.
If you have fallen behind in mortgage payments and would like advice as to how to proceed from here, give Steidl & Steinberg a call at 800-360-9392. We have helped thousands of people facing foreclosure keep their home or safely walk away if that is what they choose.