Feeling financially overwhelmed? You may be able to relieve some immediate worries by restructuring your debt. Whether you are facing foreclosure or concerned about making ends meet, it may be possible to refinance your home and gain more favorable terms.

Quick Fact
Wisconsin law provides the borrower with additional time to work out a plan with the lender. If the lender seeks a deficiency judgment, and the property is a 1-to-4 family, owner-occupied residence, the home may not be sold for 12 months — giving the homeowner additional time to avoid losing the home.
Foreclosure Survival: Wisconsin Foreclosure Process Timeline

In Wisconsin, jurisdiction over the foreclosure process lies with the circuit courts. The process may begin 90 days following a missed mortgage or tax payment, and this process typically takes 18 months before concluding. In Wisconsin, foreclosure involves the following steps:

Step 1: Mortgage payment missed

Under Wisconsin law, the foreclosure process typically begins after a borrower defaults on a loan and the lender issues any necessary notices of default. You are in default on the second day after your payment is due, however there is usually a 10–15 day grace period. Contact your lender since some lenders often have a forgiveness program for a one-time missed payment.

Step 2: Three (3) mortgage payments missed

Before filing an action in circuit court, the lender notifies homeowners by certified mail that they have breached the contractual terms of the loan and will be subject to the foreclosure process including the possibility of a deficiency judgment. In most cases, you will receive a Notice of Default from the loan servicer when you are late by 90 days or more in making scheduled mortgage or tax payments, or when you fail to pay taxes.

The complaint to foreclose is then filed in the circuit court where the property is located. The suit summarizes details of the breach, including the current amount that the homeowner is behind on the mortgage, and lists all other parties of record.

Step 3: Commencement of legal action

Foreclosure has been initiated by filing a Summons and a complaint usually in the county where the home resides. The complaint to foreclose is then filed in the circuit court where the property is located. The suit summarizes details of the breach, including the current amount that the homeowner is behind on the mortgage, and lists all other parties of record. Those documents are delivered by a sheriff’s deputy or a process server. Within these documents, they will note that you have 20 days from the date of delivery to answer and whether or not the lender is waiving the right to deficiency judgment. During this time, you have the right to dispute any information as well as cure your defaults by paying all charges in this matter, such as past-due amounts, lawyers and fees.

A lis pendens notice also is filed, typically with the county register of deeds, to notify any potential buyers or other creditors that the foreclosure action is pending. After the lis pendens notice is filed, anyone who nevertheless attempts to purchase the land or property in question becomes subject to the final disposition of the lawsuit.

Step 4: Judgment

The next step, the judgment, can occur in one of several ways. First, the court may enter a default judgment for the bank based on the documentation or oral testimony. In Wisconsin, most foreclosure judgments are entered by default. However, if the homeowner files an answer with a defense, a summary judgment hearing will be held within eight months after the filing of the complaint. The case is heard after either the bank or the homeowner sends a notice to the other parties 20 days prior to the hearing along with affidavits. After the 20-day answer period has passed, the lender will be able to move for either default or summary judgment of foreclosure. Once the foreclosure judgment has been entered into the legal system, your right to cure your defaults has expired. The redemption period — six or 12 months — starts with the entry of judgment. During this redemption period, it is possible to refinance or sell the property. After the other side files opposing affidavits, an evidentiary hearing is held and a decision rendered.

In issuing a judgment for a lender, the court will establish the amount of debt due on the house. The amount may include interest from the note to the date of the sale, attorney fees and title search fees and any insurance, real estate taxes or repair fees incurred by the lender on behalf of the homeowner.

Step 5: Sheriff's sale

Following court action in their favor, lenders are required to publish a notice of sale in a newspaper with a general circulation in the county where the property lies. The newspaper notice must contain the time and place of the sale and must be published for six consecutive weeks prior to the sale with the first notice not longer than eight weeks before the sale. This sale is open to the public and can happen at any time after the redemption period.

The foreclosure sale is then held at the courthouse in the county where the property is located. The high bidder is required to deposit 10 percent of the winning bid by certified check or cash with the sheriff. If the high bidder defaults and fails to make all payments within the prescribed time, the high bidder forfeits the deposit and the property will be re-advertised for sale.

Once the high bidder’s deposit has been secured by the clerk of courts, the sheriff mails confirmation of the sale to the parties, including the winning bidder no less than five days before the confirmation hearing. The confirmation notice includes the amount of the judgment; the amount realized at the sale; the amount of the personal judgment sought against the homeowner and the time and place of the confirmation hearing. The clerk of courts then completes a certificate of sale including the name of the high bidder and the price paid that is served on each interested party.

Step 6: Confirmation of sale

Next, a confirmation hearing takes place and is scheduled after the sheriff's sale to approve the sale. You should receive at least five days notice of the hearing. If the sale price was greater than the amount of debt, the court will presume that the property sold for a fair value. If it sold for less than the debt, the court will review the sale to determine whether it was sold for fair value or whether it should order the sale void and schedule a resale or take other action. If no objections are filed within 10 days, the clerk will file a certificate of title and the property will pass to the highest bidder. After the confirmation hearing, the winning bidder receives a deed giving the bidder title to the property. Once it is approved, the previous owner must leave the home or the court orders removal by the sheriff.

It is important to note that the responsibility for repaying debts associated with a mortgage loan does not end with the foreclosure process. Specifically, if the foreclosure process concludes with a sheriff’s sale of the property, the borrower remains responsible for any “deficiency,” or difference between what the home sold for and the original loan amount. In some cases, your lender may assess interest on the deficiency. However, Wisconsin law provides many protections for homeowners before and during foreclosure. In addition, the federal bankruptcy code may offer relief for homeowners unable to pay any deficiency resulting from a foreclosure sale.

The average foreclosure timeline in Wisconsin.

With Wisconsin attorney David Sayas

Foreclosure timeline.

With Wisconsin Bankers Association President & CEO Rose Oswald Poels

Foreclosure advice.

With REALTOR®r Laurie Logan

Calling lenders early.

With Wisconsin Bankers Association President & CEO Rose Oswald Poels

The information contained herein is of a general nature and should not be considered as advice on a particular fact situation. Individuals should consult with their lender, legal counsel or financial counselor with specific questions or for current developments.