How to file a
Pro Se Response to a Foreclosure Complaint
Pro se means that
you are representing yourself. In other words, an attorney is
not filing the document, or response to the foreclosure complaint,
on your behalf. Please carefully review the instructions below.
Remember: As a named party in a foreclosure case, you are
responsible for all court deadlines. A Legal Aid attorney is not
representing you in this matter.
Pro Se Response to a Foreclosure Complaint
This information explains
how to answer the Complaint filed against you so that you
will have an opportunity to tell your side in court.
When a lawsuit (called a “Complaint”) is filed against you
by a lender or servicer, this lender or servicer is called
the “plaintiff” in your case. You are called a “defendant.”
There may be other defendants named in the Complaint, such
as someone who also is on the deed to your home, or who
signed the Note or Mortgage with you. It is very
important that you keep all other documents you received
from the court, and the envelopes these documents came in.
When a Complaint is filed, it is up to you, the defendant,
to answer it in writing before the deadline set by the
court. You are responsible for all deadlines set by the
court. The deadline to answer the Complaint and other
important information should be listed in the document
called a “Summons” that you received with the Complaint.
Many courts have mediation programs that allow you and the
plaintiff to meet and try to reach a settlement of your
case. Mediation is a chance for you to work out a loan
modification or some other payment plan with the plaintiff.
If mediation is available through your court, it may help
you save your home. To get a mediation you must request it
from the court in writing. Please read the paperwork you
received from the court to see if mediation is available to
you, and your deadline to request mediation.
Generally, you have 28 calendar days from the date you were
“served” with the Complaint and Summons to answer and
request mediation. Some courts have a shorter deadline to
request mediation. The date you were “served” with the
Complaint is the date you received the Complaint by
certified mail or personal service, whichever came first. If
you received Summons and the Complaint from the court by
regular mail, you have 28 days from the date of the postmark
on the envelope the papers came in, to file your Answer and
serve copies to the other parties. Please review your
Summons and paperwork from the court carefully and make a
note of all deadlines and any other forms the court requires
you to complete and return to the court. If you are not sure
the date you received the Complaint or your deadline to
request mediation, you can telephone the Clerk of Courts or
check their website for that information. You also may find
any other forms required by the court on the court’s
Failure to Answer is
Admitting the Complaint
If you do not
answer the Complaint on or before the deadline stated by the
court in the paperwork you received, the plaintiff may ask
the court to issue a judgment against you and foreclose on
your home. Failing to answer the Complaint on or before the
deadline is like admitting the Complaint is true. If
you do not request mediation on or before the deadline set
by the court, you may not be allowed to use the court’s
mediation program. It is strongly recommended that you
consult with a private attorney about your case. Many
homeowners cannot afford a private attorney and must defend
pro se. The phrase “pro se” means you are
representing yourself and acting as your own attorney.
The Legal Aid HelpLine may be able to connect you with
an attorney. For more information, call 1-800-998-9454.
Callers to the HelpLine must first be screened for financial
eligibility. Eligible clients may be scheduled to speak with
a HelpLine attorney or referred for other types of
assistance. Clients with some types of issues will be asked
to fill out a written application or referred to a self-help
clinic. Clients with certain types of legal problems may be
represented by staff attorneys at one of our local offices
or referred to a volunteer attorney in the community.
How to Prepare Your Written
Preparing a written answer to the
Complaint is easy. It can be nothing more than a letter to the judge.
Certain information must be included in your letter so that your answer
will be properly recorded when it is received. This information can be
found on the Summons page and the Complaint. You must include:
The name of the court
of the person who is suing you (the plaintiff)
Your name (the defendant)
The case number
of the judge
You can write the information the same
way as it appears on the Complaint. Tell the judge you are writing
about a lawsuit filed against you in the judge's court. If the Complaint
filed against you has numbered paragraphs, as most of them do, go
through the complaint paragraph by paragraph, admitting what is true and
denying what is not true.
Whenever you deny something in the
Complaint, you should also briefly state your reason for denying any
part of it. At the end of the letter, ask the judge to dismiss the
Complaint. Make sure to include your name, address, phone number and the
name of the attorney or plaintiff. You should type
your Answer; handwritten copies are not acceptable. It is important for the judge and the plaintiff to be able
to read what you have written.
How to Serve and to File
After you have prepared your Answer,
you need to immediately make photocopies of it. Mail one of the photocopies to the attorney, or to the
person who filed the Complaint against you. By mailing a copy, you are
serving your Answer. If you choose to file by U.S. mail, the documents
must reach the Clerk of Courts on or before your deadline. You must also
include a return envelope with a postage stamp and your address so that
your copy can be mailed back to you. You may want to ask the post office
to provide you with a Certificate of Mailing, which proves when an item
was mailed and the person to whom it was addressed, but you are not
required to send the copies by certified mail nor are you required to
have the documents notarized.
Be sure to keep a copy of your signed Answer for yourself.
Take the original document and your
copies to the Clerk of Courts office in your county. (You can find the
address on the Summons page of the Complaint or listed in the phone book
under "County Government.") The clerk will keep the original documents
and one set of copies. The remaining copies will be given back you with
the clerk’s time stamp. Your file-stamped copy is proof of when
and where you filed your answer, like a receipt.
After you are done with all of this, the judge will have your Answer,
the person who filed the Complaint against you will have a copy of your
Answer and you will have a copy of your Answer. Everyone will know where
you stand and that you are fighting the Complaint. The court will then
keep you updated on what happens in your case.
Developed by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc., a non-profit law firm
in Akron, Ohio. Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. handles a variety of
different cases, including consumer rights, family, housing,
foreclosure, health, education, public benefits, wills, probate and
taxes. They assist clients in the following counties of central
northeast Ohio: Columbiana, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Stark,
Summit, Trumbull and Wayne. Visit the
Community Legal Aid Services website for more information.