When Banks Change the Locks on Your Home Before the Foreclosure Sheriff Sale

Especially in the case of homeowners who own multiple properties, they may find that their mortgage company has had the locks changed on a house in foreclosure. This can be very unsettling to owners who are still trying to find a workable solution to foreclosure, because it indicates that the bank is exercising control over the property before it has been sold out from under the owners at a county auction. But banks may have the locks changed on a house even though they are not the legal owners of the property.Of course, they can not really just take the property away before the foreclosure has gone through and the house has been sold at a sheriff sale. Without a reason to request that the house be secured, the bank can do nothing to the property itself until after the foreclosure auction. However, they can request the court to secure the property temporarily, which might mean changing the locks on an apparently-abandoned house.Especially if the homeowners have not responded to any of the bank’s motions in court or filed an answer to the foreclosure lawsuit or appeared (on their own or through an attorney) at the scheduled foreclosure hearing, the bank may just assume that they have decided to walk away from the house. Even if they know that the house is a vacation or investment property, they will not want to see it sitting empty and a potential target of vandalism or damage.The government courts and sheriffs department will usually do whatever the banks tell them to do, so that helps explain why a house may be locked up before the foreclosure auction. The mortgage company can usually show that the owners have not responded to the lawsuit and that the house has not been occupied for a certain number of weeks or months, and that it should be secured to prevent damage. The courts will usually accept this argument and order the sheriff to change the locks.But once this happens, it can be extremely difficult for the homeowners to regain access to their home. This is why they should keep in contact with the lender throughout the foreclosure process so they can explain why the house will be empty. But preventing the county government from changing the locks will always be much easier than cutting through all of the red tape later on to get back into the house. After the government changes the locks, even if the homeowners try to break into their own home, they may be held liable for any damage.Once the locks have been changed and the homeowners are shut out of the house, but before the foreclosure auction has been conducted, they can try to get access back to the house by calling the local sheriff’s department or the courts. They will most likely have to inform the court that they are still in possession of the house even though it is not their primary residence and may be empty at times. Even this simple act of explanation may require filing paperwork in the court and having the government remove the locks that were changed or allowing the legal owners access to their own property.But the house is still the private property of the owners until it is sold at the county foreclosure auction. The mortgage company can and usually will secure the home if it looks like the homeowners have abandoned a property in foreclosure. However, they can not not otherwise interfere with the foreclosure victims’ ownership interest until that interest is transferred by the applicable laws. The government may act as the right arm of the banks in securing the property and keeping the homeowners out for as long as possible, so keeping the house from being taken over by the government, even temporarily, should be a high priority for homeowners who are attempting to stop foreclosure on their homes.