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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.


Filing a 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 website.

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 their foreclosure 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 Answer

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

  • The name of the person who is suing you (the plaintiff)

  • Your name (the defendant)

  • The case number

  • The name 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 Your Answer

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.


Community Legal Aid Services, Inc., a non-profit law firm in Akron, Ohio, 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.


For more information on Community Legal Aid Services, visit: