If you default on your home loan payments in New Hampshire, the servicer (on behalf of the loan owner, called the “lender” in this article) will eventually begin the foreclosure process. The method will most likely be nonjudicial, although judicial foreclosures are also allowed. New Hampshire law specifies how nonjudicial procedures work, and both federal and state laws give you rights and protections throughout the foreclosure.
If you get a loan to buy a home in New Hampshire, you'll likely sign two documents: a promissory note and a mortgage. The promissory note is the document that contains your promise to repay the loan along with the repayment terms. The mortgage is the document that gives the lender a security interest in the property and will probably include a power of sale clause. If you fail to make the payments, the power of sale clause gives the lender the right to sell the home nonjudicially so it can recoup the money it loaned you.
If you miss a payment, the servicer can usually charge a late fee after the grace period expires. Most mortgage loans give a grace period of ten to fifteen days, for example, before you’ll incur late charges. To find out the grace period in your situation and the amount of the late fee, review the promissory note or your monthly billing statement.
If you miss a few mortgage payments, the servicer will probably send letters and call you to try to collect. Federal mortgage servicing laws require the servicer to contact you (or attempt to contact you) by phone to discuss foreclosure alternatives—called “loss mitigation” options—no later than 36 days after a missed payment and again within 36 days after each following missed payment. No more than 45 days after a missed payment, the servicer must let you know in writing about loss mitigation options that could be available, and assign personnel to help you. Some exceptions to a few of these requirements exist, like if you file for bankruptcy or tell the servicer not to contact you under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. (12 C.F.R. § 1024.39).
Many mortgages in New Hampshire have a provision that requires the lender to send a breach letter if you fall behind in payments. This notice tells you that the loan is in default. If you don’t cure the default, the lender can accelerate the loan (call it due) and go ahead with the foreclosure.
Federal law generally requires the servicer to wait until the loan is over 120 days delinquent before officially starting a foreclosure. However, in a few situations, like if you violate a due-on-sale clause or if the servicer is joining the foreclosure action of a superior or subordinate lienholder, the foreclosure can begin sooner. (12 C.F.R. § 1024.41).
Again, most New Hampshire foreclosures are nonjudicial.
In New Hampshire, defaulting homeowners can expect to receive one foreclosure notice: a notice of sale. The lender has to personally serve or mail the notice of sale at least 45 days before the sale. It must also publish the notice in a newspaper once a week for three weeks, with the first publication not less than 20 days before the sale. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 479:25).
The sale is a public sale, open to all bidders. The lender usually makes a bid on the property using what’s called a "credit bid" rather than bidding cash. With a credit bid, the lender gets a credit up to the amount of the borrower’s debt. The highest bidder at the sale becomes the new owner of the property.
“Reinstating” is when a borrower pays the overdue amount, plus fees and costs, to bring the loan current and stop a foreclosure. However, New Hampshire law doesn’t provide the borrower with a reinstatement right. The mortgage contract, on the other hand, might provide the right to reinstate (most do), or the lender might allow you to complete a reinstatement.
Sometimes, a foreclosure sale doesn’t bring in enough money to pay off the full amount owed on the loan. The difference between the sale price and the total debt is called a “deficiency balance.” Many states allow the lender to get a personal judgment, called a “deficiency judgment,” for this amount against the borrower.
In New Hampshire, the lender may obtain a deficiency judgment by filing a lawsuit after the sale, but it must make every reasonable effort to obtain a fair and reasonable price at the sale. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 508:6).
Some states have a law that gives a foreclosed homeowner time after the foreclosure sale to redeem the property. New Hampshire law, though, doesn’t provide the borrower with the right to redeem after a nonjudicial foreclosure. But you can redeem, and stop the foreclosure, up until the time of the foreclosure sale by paying off the full amount of the unpaid mortgage debt. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 479:18).
Foreclosure laws are complicated. Servicers and lenders sometimes make errors or forget steps. If you think your servicer or lender failed to complete a required step, made a mistake, or violated state or federal foreclosure laws, you might have a defense that could force a restart to the foreclosure. Or, you might have leverage to work out an alternative.
Consider talking to a local foreclosure attorney or legal aid office immediately to learn about your rights. A lawyer can also tell you about different ways to avoid foreclosure. Likewise, a HUD-approved housing counselor can provide helpful information (at no cost) about various alternatives to foreclosure.