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Federal Laws Affecting Foreclosure

At least two federal laws can have an impact on foreclosure cases: bankruptcy laws and the Soldier and Sailors Relief Act.


The filing of any bankruptcy action automatically stays a foreclosure proceeding, regardless of type. At that point, whether the stay will be lifted depends on whether the mortgagor has equity in the mortgaged property. If the bankruptcy has been filed under a Chapter 11 petition, the bankruptcy court may "terminate, annul, modify or condition such stay" for cause, including the lack of adequate protection of an interest in property of the mortgage holder, or if the mortgagor does not have equity in the property and the property is not necessary for an effective reorganization.

If it has been filed as a straight bankruptcy petition, asking for discharge of all debts, the mortgage holder will be allowed to foreclose if the bankrupt debtor has no equity in the property. If there is equity in the property, the property can be sold by the bankruptcy court.

Soldier and Sailors Relief Act

The Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act of 1940 gives special protection to mortgagors on active duty in the armed forces for mortgage loans executed prior to when they went into service. The Act provides that a service person can apply to a court to set aside a default judgment leading to a foreclosure action. Because of this provision, a mortgage holder initiating a foreclosure action against a mortgagor who fails to answer the foreclosure complaint must file an affidavit with the court stating the mortgagor is not on active duty in the armed services.

If the mortgagor is in the armed services, the individual must be present or represented at the foreclosure hearing, meaning foreclosure by power of sale is not available. If a court finds that the mortgagor's ability to meet the terms of the mortgage has been affected by their service in the armed forces, they can stay the foreclosure action as long as the person is in the service.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help you avoid or navigate the foreclosure process.

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