Being faced with a Sheriff’s Sale can be a frightening experience. The Sheriff, or a constable, has just stopped by, inventoried everything you own, and given you a notice that things are being sold. Even worse, you may receive a Notice that your Home is being sold at a Foreclosure Sale. What can you Do?
You will need to do something BEFORE the date of the sale if you want to stop it.
Is the Judgment Valid?
In order to hold a sale, there must be a valid judgment. Someone has sued you in court, served the Complaint on you, either by having the Sheriff hand it to you, sending it by certified mail (in District Justice cases), or using some alternative type of notice. You may want to review with an attorney whether the procedural requirements have been met, and whether there is any possibility of contesting the validity of the judgment.
Is the Property Exempt?
Pennsylvania law isn’t very generous about exemptions, but some property (at least $300) is set aside for the Debtor. In addition, Objections can be made if the property levied upon belongs to someone else, or if the amount of the levy is excessive.
Can the Debt be Paid, Perhaps in Payments?
In many cases, arrangements can be made either to make payments on the debt, or to pay a lump sum to satisfy the debt. But be aware of the Debt Settlement Trap. These agreements are voluntary: if something is agreed to, it should be done in writing, and the Creditor will need to notify the Sheriff or District Justice of the Agreement.
Options in a Mortgage Foreclosure
If you are faced with a mortgage foreclosure sale, you may have other options, including curing the default (making up the payments you have missed), seeking a Mortgage Modification, or filing a Chapter 13 Petition.
Filing a Bankruptcy Petition
Bankruptcy is often the option of last resort. A decision to file bankruptcy should be made carefully, after consulting a bankruptcy lawyer, and reviewing your overall financial situation.
If a Bankruptcy Petition is filed, any actions in State Court are automatically stayed, which means that they cannot continue during the bankruptcy case, unless a bankruptcy judge allows the stay to be lifted.