Information for Homeowners or Tenants in Foreclosure

This page provides information and links for people who do not have an attorney for their foreclosure case. 

Florida law requires self-represented parties to comply with all applicable laws and procedures and you will be held to the same standards as a member of The Florida Bar. The judge has to be neutral and cannot protect you if you make mistakes that cause you to lose your case, nor can the judge give you guidance regarding how to defend the case. For this reason, hiring a lawyer is strongly recommended.

Frequently Asked Questions

The clerk of court assigns foreclosure actions for more than $30,000 to the Circuit Civil Divisions A and C (Sarasota) and B and D (Manatee). Actions for less than $30,000 are assigned to County Court.

Judges are not allowed to talk directly with litigants, witnesses, friends, or family members of litigants about a pending case or a disputed matter that might lead to litigation. Ethical rules require judges to have both sides of a dispute present, with their lawyers, before he or she is permitted to discuss a matter in litigation or a matter which might be litigated.

Judicial assistants are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice. By law they cannot recommend lawyers or advise a person how to handle a case. They do not have the authority to approve requests to continue a matter or to excuse a court appearance, only a judge can do that. The claim that the “Judicial assistant told me to do it” is not an acceptable defense.

You have the right to represent yourself. However, foreclosure law is complex. It is strongly recommended that you not attempt to do this without an attorney. You may have defenses to foreclosure that are unrecognizable by untrained persons. Being uninformed about civil procedure and the law may cause you to lose a case that you could otherwise win. Before deciding to be your own lawyer, it would be wise to consult with a member of The Florida Bar. Attorneys don’t have to be hired to defend the entire case. Some may agree to be hired for a limited purpose. This can greatly reduce the cost and allow an unrepresented party to have an attorney’s help at critical stages of the case. For example, a defendant may need the attorney just to file and argue a motion to dismiss, or a summary judgment, or to help them prepare for trial.

If you have no lawyer, you may find these websites helpful:

  1. Contact legal aid services to see if you qualify for free legal advice:
    • Legal Aid of Manasota  
      Sarasota Office - 1900 Main St., Suite 302, Sarasota, FL 34236 - (941) 366-0038
      Venice Office - 7810 South Tamiami Trail, Suite A6, Venice, FL 34293 - (941) 492-4631
    • Gulfcoast Legal Services
      ​1750 17th St., Bldg. 1, Sarasota, FL 34236 - (941) 366-1746
  2. Many local attorneys advertise online and in the phone book. The local bar associations also have useful resources: Link to Sarasota County Bar Association; Link to Manatee County Bar Association

The most common mistake made by persons who do not hire an attorney is the failure to pay attention to deadlines. The rules of civil procedure govern foreclosure cases and they set deadlines for a defending party to take action. Self-represented persons must become familiar with the procedural rules and pay careful attention to orders signed by the judge.

When deadlines are missed, sometimes it is possible for the defendant to ask the judge to excuse the oversight. But this is risky and depends on why the deadline was missed, and the judge may not accept the excuse. The sooner the request is made after a date is missed, the more likely it is that the judge may allow the error to be corrected. In any event, for the deadline to be excused, a valid legal reason for missing the deadline is required.

  • Notice of Hearing
  • Motion
  • Supporting document copies (a copy of your motion or other filed pleadings that will be addressed at the hearing)
  • Case law supporting your position

The court is under no obligation to provide court reporters in civil cases even where the litigants are indigent. Litigants that want their proceedings recorded are responsible for hiring a court reporter to attend hearings or trials.

No. On February 9, 2009, the 12th Circuit adopted Administrative Order 2009-2.1 in re: Emergency Order Suspending Telephone Hearings in Foreclosure Cases in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. However, during the COVID-19 health emergency, some hearings are conducted by video or phone. Check your notice of hearing to see how the court will proceed with your case.

Do’s and Don’ts for Self-represented Parties

  1. DO NOT attempt to speak with the judge about your case. The judge is not allowed to discuss cases directly with litigants, witnesses, friends or family members without both sides being present in an open court. If you need to set a motion hearing before the judge, visit the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for more information.
  2. DO NOT ask the judge’s judicial assistant or case managers legal questions. They are not attorneys and would be violating the law if they did so.
  3. DO NOT file bogus motions or court papers such as an answer or affirmative defenses with allegations or legal positions you cannot substantiate. Doing so risks losing credibility with the judge and places you in jeopardy of sanctions and additional attorney fees.
  4. DO NOT disclose to the judge or others what is discussed in mediation. By statute, this is confidential.
  1. DO pay attention to time limits. For example, you have 20 days after service of the complaint to file your response. If you miss this deadline, you may lose your case by default, meaning you give up any defenses you may have allowing the plaintiff to win the case. Court orders and rules of procedure may impose other time requirements. Failure to timely comply can have serious consequences for your case.
  2. DO contact legal aid to see if you can qualify for free legal services:
    • Legal Aid of Manasota
      • Sarasota Office - 1900 Main Street, Suite 302, Sarasota, Florida 34236 - (941) 366-0038
      • Venice Office - 7810 South Tamiami Trail, Suite A6, Venice, Florida 34293 - (941) 492-4631
    • Gulfcoast Legal Services
      • 1750 17th Street, Bldg. 1, Sarasota, Florida 34236 - (941) 366-1746
    • If they cannot help you, a list of attorneys who have agreed to accept foreclosure cases on a sliding scale depending on income and assets can be found here.
  3. DO explore this website to become familiar with the judges’ policies and requirements.
  4. DO copy the opposing side with any letter or papers sent to the judge or the clerk of court. This rule applies to both sides
  5. DO keep the clerk of court informed of your contact information, including email and mailing addresses, and phone numbers. This can be done by letter to the clerk. The Sarasota Clerk of Circuit Court’s mailing address is 2000 Main Street, Sarasota, FL 34237. U. S. mail is the official means of informing you of action taken in your case and is how important documents will be sent. If you change addresses, let the clerk know immediately.
  6. DO review the Rules for Courtroom Conduct prior to attending your court hearing.