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California Foreclosure Process Timeline

In California, home loans are usually secured by a legal document called a “deed of trust” that permits the lender to reclaim the property if the borrower defaults on the loan. This means that when homeowners fall behind on their mortgage payments, lenders can take possession of their property and sell them through a process known as foreclosure.

If you’ve fallen into financial hardship and cannot afford your monthly mortgage payment, the best way to keep a roof over your head is often to file for bankruptcy. Filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy will allow you to keep your home while getting a fresh financial start. However, while the timeline for foreclosing on a house can vary, it’s essential that you act quickly to protect your rights.

How Long Does It Take To Foreclose on a Property in California?

Under California laws, lenders can pursue a foreclosure case through the courts, but they almost always use non-judicial foreclosure instead. The non-judicial process can be completed in approximately 120 days (4 months). However, the timeline can sometimes be 200 days or more. There are several steps in the process that must be completed, each involving a waiting period before a lender can take action.

What Is the Whole Foreclosure Process?

The California foreclosure timeline officially begins when the bank records a Notice of Default in the county where the property is located. The lender must also send the borrower a copy of the notice by certified mail within 10 business days. After the Notice of Default is filed, the homeowner has 90 days to cure the default, which usually means paying everything that is owed.

If the borrower does not pay within the 90-day timeline, the bank can record a Notice of Sale announcing that the property will be sold at auction. The notice must also be sent to the homeowner by certified mail, be published in a local newspaper for 3 consecutive weeks before the sale date, and be posted at the property and a public place like the local courthouse.

At least 21 days after the Notice of Sale is recorded, the lender can sell the home at auction to the highest bidder. The winning bidder is then considered the owner of the house. If the sale price is less than the amount owed on the mortgage, the bank can pursue a “deficiency judgment” against the borrower to hold them responsible for the remaining balance.

How Does Pre-Foreclosure Work in California?

Before the formal foreclosure timeline begins, they must take specific steps in what is known as the “pre-foreclosure” stage of the timeline. California law requires lenders to contact anyone on the mortgage loan to conduct a foreclosure avoidance assessment and explore alternatives to foreclosing on the home. The bank cannot initiate the official process until at least 30 days after this assessment.

What Can You Do?

If the bank is in the process of foreclosing on your home, California law allows you to reinstate the loan by curing the default up until 5 days before the sale. You can also "redeem" the property by paying off the entire loan before the sale. However, if you can’t afford to stay current on your mortgage, you probably can’t stop the foreclosure timeline this way.

However, you can stop the sale by filing for bankruptcy. Once you submit your bankruptcy petition, you’ll receive an automatic stay that will stop the process in its tracks. As long as the automatic stay remains in place, the lender won’t be able to sell your home.