How to Properly Answer a Foreclosure Summons — Without Hiring a Lawyer

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If you have been served with a foreclosure summons (aka summons and complaint for foreclosure), it is important that you file and serve an answer within the time period required by the law of your state.

How Long Do You Have to Answer a Foreclosure Summons

Typically, the time period for filing and serving your foreclosure answer form will be set forth on the face of the foreclosure summons that was served upon you. For example, the time period for responding to a foreclosure complaint in Florida is 20 days. This means that within 20 days after you are served with the foreclosure paperwork, you must file either what is called an “answer” or if you have grounds, a “motion to dismiss.” In most other states, the time period for filing an answer is similar.

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What Happens If You Don’t Answer a Foreclosure Summons within the Required Time Period

If you do not serve your answer form within the required time period, a default judgment may be entered against you.

What Happens If You’re Late in Answering a Foreclosure Summons

If the time period has already expired for your to answer a summons you may have received, don’t despair. You may still be able to defend your rights in the lawsuit by filing a motion to extend your time period for answering the complaint.

Particularly in foreclosure lawsuits, courts are generally liberal in vacating defaults. In most jurisdictions, there is a strong presumption in favor of adjudicating lawsuits on the merits, rather than granting victories to plaintiffs based on procedural defects or other technicalities.

Who / Where to File Your Answer to a Foreclosure Summons

With regard to the filing of your foreclosure answer form, it is advisable to hand file your answer with the court clerk. Make sure to take at least 2 copies to the courthouse, so that the clerk can stamp a copy for your records. This ensures that you have proof that your papers were filed with the court.

You should also bring proof that a copy of your foreclosure answer was mailed to the lender’s attorney.

Do’s and Dont’s: What to Say in Your Foreclosure Summons Response Letter

Don’t be long-winded: Keep it short; stick to substantive issues in your foreclosure answer. It is neither essential nor necessarily even beneficial to draft a long-winded, elaborate discussion of the facts.

Do keep it simple: All you have to do is deny those allegations of the foreclosure complaint that are false, and then briefly set forth the affirmative defenses that are available to you under the statutory and common law of your state.

Do use simple “foreclosure law” tactics: For example, if the original lender assigned your mortgage (a fairly frequent occurrence) you should strongly consider raising, as an affirmative defense, the allegation that the plaintiff lacks “legal standing” to bring a foreclosure complaint.

Do cite lender misconduct: In responding to foreclosure, you may also wish to raise, as affirmative defenses, any misconduct of the lender and/or its assignee. This may include deceptive consumer practices, including but not limited to misrepresentations regarding interest and other fees at the time that the loan was consummated. You may also wish to assert that the plaintiff failed to provide notice, required under state law, prior to commencing a foreclosure lawsuit against you.

Filling an Answer to a Foreclosure Summons Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

If you are unable to afford the services of a private attorney, you may find it useful to download a sample foreclosure answer form that is tailored to the law of your state.

Although such foreclosure response samples or templates are not substitutes for the advice of an experienced foreclosure defense attorney, such forms may serve as useful guides for lay persons who are otherwise unfamiliar with the procedural and substantive aspects of mortgage foreclosure.

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About the Author: This article is brought to you by the foreclosure defense form specialists at, an online legal forms provider that was founded by foreclosure defense attorney Marc Rapaport. Mr. Rapaport has 15 years of experience representing the interests of homeowners who wish to save their homes from mortgage foreclosure lawsuits, and he has counseled thousands of homeowners with regard to answering foreclosure complaints.

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