How Can I Protect My Home from Creditors?

Because a home may be a person's most valuable asset, creditors may try to seize the property in exchange for debts owed and past due. A homeowner should be aware of those possibilities and take the necessary steps to prevent such action. When creditors do come to call, an attorney can be helpful in preventing the loss of the home.

When buying a house, most people finance the purchase by borrowing money from a bank or other financial institution. The lender will require the borrower to sign a promissory note and deed of trust, more commonly known as a mortgage. The company holds the mortgage on the house until the entire loan is paid.

If the borrower ever fails to make a mortgage payment, the lender has the right to call for immediate payment of the entire loan. If the homeowner is unable to pay, the deed of trust allows the lender to foreclose on the property and sell it to recoup its investment. This process can occur in as little as 30 days. Quick action by the homeowner may prevent the foreclosure or sale.

A similar situation is possible when a homeowner borrows money to make home improvements. Among the documents the lender may require is a second deed of trust on the home. Just as in the original financing, if the homeowner fails to make a payment, foreclosure can occur.

However, federal law gives the homeowner the right to cancel the loan within three days of signing the loan papers. The law also requires the lender to give the borrower notice of his or her right to cancel. If the lender fails to give notice, the borrower can cancel at any time.

If a homeowner contracts to have home repairs done but fails to pay for the work in accordance with the agreement, the house is in danger of being lost. The contractor may file a mechanics lien against the property and force the sale of the property.

Subcontractors may file similar liens if they are not paid by the contractor. To prevent this from happening, the homeowner can demand from the contractor written lien waivers from all the subcontractors providing materials or services for work described in the contract. Mississippi law requires the homeowner be given notice of the right to these waivers.

Another expense of home ownership is the city and county taxes on the property. Failure to pay these taxes can force the sale of the home for taxes. Prompt action can prevent this from occurring or even enable the owner to regain the home after the sale.

Home ownership is also in jeopardy when the owner loses a lawsuit and owes money. The court can place a judgment lien against the house, allowing for the sale of the property to satisfy the amount owed.

Owning a home can bring great satisfaction, security, and tax benefits. However, great responsibility also rests with the home owner to manage any incurred debt and make payments on time. Failure to do so can possibly cause the loss of one's greatest financial asset.