Homeowners are often worried about further collection attempts after a foreclosure has been completed. After losing their homes, they worry about seeing their car repossessed, bank accounts levied, or wages garnished. But in most cases, there is little chance of a deficiency judgment or future collection attempts due to the numerous obstacles in the path of the bank.
The first consideration homeowners have to take into account is, does their state allow deficiency judgments after foreclosure? They should immediately look up their state foreclosure laws to find out if this is even a possibility, let alone probably. If they are not allowed, then there is no danger of garnishment. If yes, other factors will have to be met before collection efforts can resume.
Second, if the state allows a deficiency judgment, was there actually a deficiency at the sheriff sale? A deficiency is when the house sells for less than what the borrowers owe on it. If they owe $140,000 and the property is auctioned for $130,000, there is a $10,000 deficiency. Unfortunately, due to rapidly declining home values, many foreclosure auctions end with a deficiency.
Third, what is the fair market value of the home? Many courts will allow a deficiency judgment only for up to the actual value of the house. Using the example in the previous paragraph, if the house auctioned for $130,000 and the homeowners owed $140,000, but the fair market value is $135,000, courts may limit the deficiency to a maximum of $5,000. That is the fair market value ($135k) minus the sales price at auction ($130k).
Fourth, if the state allows a deficiency and there is one that is above the fair market value of the home, what gives the lender the incentive to go after the judgment? Many lenders will not bother with a deficiency judgment because they know that homeowners in foreclosure are strapped for cash. It costs more in attorney fees and court costs than the lender will ever be able to recover from most borrowers, so what is their incentive to sue for a deficiency?
The final consideration when examining the possibility of wage garnishment for a debt after foreclosure is that deficiency judgments are dischargeable in bankruptcy. If the bank gets a judgment against borrowers and tries to garnish wages, the former owners can file a Chapter 7 and have it eliminated, if they meet the other requirements for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. So even in the worst case scenario, homeowners might be able to avoid wage garnishment.
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