If you're a homeowner facing foreclosure in California, you probably have many questions about how the foreclosure will play out. For example: How much notice will you get before the foreclosure sale takes place? Can you catch up on the past-due amounts to stop the foreclosure? Can your lender get a deficiency judgment after a California foreclosure?
For answers to these questions, and more, read on. You’ll find a summary of some of the main features of California’s foreclosure law along with citations to the statutes so you can read the law yourself.
The citations to California foreclosure statutes are:
You can find the California Civil Code and Code of Civil Procedure on the California legislature’s website atwww.leginfo.ca.gov. If you need help finding the statutes, see Finding Your State’s Foreclosure Laws.
We’ve summarized important parts of California’s foreclosure laws below. You can find more detailed articles on various aspects of California foreclosure law in Nolo’s California Foreclosure Law Center.
In California, most foreclosures are nonjudicial, which means they happen outside of court (as opposed to judicial foreclosures, which go through the court system). Since most foreclosures in California are nonjudicial, this article focuses on that process. (Learn more about nonjudicial foreclosures.)
California law requires the foreclosing party to contact the borrower before the foreclosure officially starts and to provide two separate foreclosure notices: a notice of default and a notice of sale.
Pre-foreclosure outreach requirements. In California, the lender or mortgage servicer must personally contact the borrower (or satisfy the legal requirements for attempting to contact the borrower) 30 days before recording a notice of default (which is the official start to the foreclosure process) to assess the borrower's financial situation and explore options to avoid foreclosure. Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5.
Notice of default. To start the foreclosure, the lender or trustee (the third party that manages nonjudicial foreclosures) records a three-month notice of default in the county recorder’s office and mails a copy to the borrower within ten business days following recordation. Cal. Civ. Code § § 2924, 2924b.
Within one month following recordation of the notice of default, the lender or trustee must mail a copy of the notice to the successor in interest, as of the recording date of the notice of default, of the estate or interest or any portion thereof of the trustor or mortgagor of the deed of trust or mortgage being foreclosed, among other parties. Cal. Civil Code § 2924b(c)(1) and (2).
Notice of sale. The lender or trustee then records a notice of sale and mails a copy to the borrower at least 20 days before the sale date. Cal. Civ. Code § 2924, 2924b. The sale date cannot be earlier than three months and 20 days after the recording date of the notice of default. Cal. Civ. Code § 2924.
The notice of sale must also be:
California law extends legal protections against foreclosure similar to those provided under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to:
“Reinstating” is when you catch up on the missed payments (plus fees and costs) in order to stop a foreclosure. (Learn more about reinstatement to avoid foreclosure.)
Borrowers in California can reinstate the loan at any time until five business days prior to the date of sale. Cal. Civ. Code § 2924c.
In some states, you can redeem (repurchase) your home within a certain period of time after the foreclosure. In California, foreclosed homeowners cannot redeem the home following a nonjudicial foreclosure. (To get details on redemption after a foreclosure in California, see Nolo’s article If I lose my home to foreclosure in California, can I get it back?)
When the total mortgage debt exceeds the foreclosure sale price, the difference is called a “deficiency.” Some states allow the lender to seek a personal judgment (called a “deficiency judgment”) against the borrower for this amount, while other states prohibit deficiency judgments with what are called anti-deficiency laws.
In California, a lender cannot get a deficiency judgment after a nonjudicial foreclosure. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 580d. (For a summary of the deficiency laws in California, see California Laws on Post-Foreclosure Deficiency.)
After a California foreclosure sale, the purchaser must give the homeowner a three-day notice to quit (move out) before starting a formal eviction action in court.