Are you struggling to pay your rent or mortgage? Are you worried about losing your home? Here is some information about what could happen if you can’t pay all of your rent or mortgage.
If you haven’t paid your rent, your landlord may try to evict you. An eviction is a lawsuit for a landlord to get a court order to make you (the tenant) move out of a rental unit, such as a house or apartment.
If you haven’t paid your mortgage, your mortgage company may try to take your home from you through foreclosure. Foreclosure is a legal process for the mortgage company (the lender) to take your home from you (the borrower). It could be a lawsuit or another type of process.
A tenant or borrower has legal rights. Some exceptions exist, but generally:
- You will receive a written notice first from the landlord or lender, claiming an amount you owe and warning about the steps they will take.
- You may have time to move before a lawsuit or the next steps begin.
- You may have time to pay what you owe, and then you may not have to move out.
If a lawsuit is filed for eviction or foreclosure, generally:
- You will be served with a written notice of the lawsuit.
- You will have a deadline to file a written answer with the court. That’s a formal legal reply to the claims against you.
- You will be served with a written notice of the date and time of the court hearing.
At the court hearing:
- A judge listens to both sides of the case. Both sides can ask to testify and present evidence.
- The judge will make a decision about the case and sign a written order.
- If you don’t go to the court hearing, you’ll probably lose the case. Then you will have to move out.
- Even if you go to the hearing and lose, you may have more rights. You may have time to pay what you owe, time to move out, or the right to appeal the decision.
- Your landlord could face foreclosure if the mortgage isn’t paid for the place that you rent. You might face eviction after the foreclosure, even if you paid all of your rent. You may not know when a foreclosure takes place against your landlord, but you should get a notice of an eviction against you.
A lawyer can tell you specifically about your state’s laws, your rights, and any defenses. Sometimes, federal laws give tenants and borrowers additional protections.
To learn more and find legal help, visit LawHelp.org. Keep in mind:
- Legal aid programs have eligibility guidelines. They may ask about how much income you have and what you own. They may ask about your immigration status and other things, so they can see if you qualify for help.
- If you qualify, you could receive free legal advice or a lawyer to represent you and your case for free.
Editor’s Note: This is general information and not legal advice. Please consult with a lawyer licensed in your state for legal advice.
By Susan Schoppa, J.D.