The foreclosure process in each state is governed, in large part, by that state’s foreclosure laws. Each state’s foreclosure law is different. By reviewing your state’s foreclosure law, you can find out:
Most, if not all, state statutes are available online. You'll also find your state’s statutes at a law library or possibly even at your local public library.
Keep in mind that federal law also imposes some requirements on mortgage lenders and servicers in the foreclosure process. To learn more, see Nolo's New Foreclosure Laws & Settlements topic area.)
There are two ways to find your state’s statutes on foreclosure. By browsing through the various subject headings of the statutes (statutes are usually organized hierarchically by numbered title, article, chapter, and section), or by searching online for the keywords you're interested in.
You can find a summary of your state's foreclosure laws by clicking on the links below.
Here is an example of the general steps you would use to find the foreclosure statutes for Vermont. The steps should be similar for your state.
Most states arrange their statutes in a similar manner: by title, article, chapter, and section. Some states arrange their statutes in a slightly different manner. For example, if you were looking for Section 2323.07 of the Ohio Revised Code, you would use the first two numbers to find the correct title (in this case, Title 23). After clicking on Title 23, you would then look for the statute numbered 2323.07.
In New York, the citation to the foreclosure law is N.Y. Real Prop. Acts. Law, Sections 1301 to 1391. You would find these statutes by first browsing the list of legal topics until you found “Real Property Actions & Proceedings.” Click on that topic and then browse until you find the article that contains Sections 1301 to 1391 (Article 13: Action to Foreclose a Mortgage).
Your state may use a slightly different model from these examples. You may have to use a little ingenuity to get to the right statutes. As a general rule, the number at the left of the citation will be the number you use to start your search, whether it is the title, article, or chapter number. If for some reason the citation number doesn’t work, look for a subject heading dealing with foreclosure, real estate, or real property; if you are in a judicial foreclosure state, look for a subject heading dealing with civil procedure.
If you aren’t able to find your state’s foreclosure statutes by using the method described above, try an online search for your state name and "foreclosure statute." For instance, by doing an online search for “Vermont foreclosure statute,” you’ll find in your list of results a link to the Vermont Statutes Online on the Vermont State Legislature’s website. Clicking on that link will take you to a page listing all of the relevant Vermont foreclosure statutes.
But beware of this method of searching. Quite possibly, you will turn up only one statute at a time. Bankruptcy and foreclosure statutes come in swarms, and you need to be able to see the entire array (called the statutory scheme) to fully understand what you are looking at. For example, if you are looking for statutes dealing with notice before the foreclosure sale or the right of redemption, you may find only one of the relevant statutes and not be aware of the others.
Foreclosure statutes can be difficult to read. Especially in Eastern states, foreclosure statutes come from English law adopted in the 18th century. The language is very different from modern English and can be hard to understand.
Statutes also aren't organized very well. One relevant statute might be found in one section of the law, while a closely related one will appear elsewhere. For example, some foreclosure laws can be found in sections dealing with court procedure, while other foreclosure laws are in sections dealing with real estate. You may have to look in several different parts of your state's statute to find all of the statutes related to foreclosure.
If you need more help on doing your own legal research, see Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law, by Stephen Elias and the editors of Nolo (Nolo).
Excerpted from The Foreclosure Survival Guide, by Stephen Elias (Nolo).