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WashingtonLawHelp.orgWashington LawHelp

Forfeiture of Your Real Estate Contract

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
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Read this if you are buying a home under a real estate contract. Do NOT read this if you are buying a home with a mortgage or deed of trust. #6203EN


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I am buying a home with a mortgage or deed of trust. Should I read this?

No. Read these instead:


What is a real estate contract?

It is any written agreement for the sale of real property (land and the buildings on it). In a real estate contract, the seller keeps legal title until the buyer finishes paying for it.


What does "forfeiture" of a real estate contract mean?

The seller cancels your rights under the contract because you are not meeting your end of the agreement, such as making your monthly payments.


Is it the same as foreclosure?

No. You usually have fewer rights than someone facing foreclosure.

*See a lawyer BEFORE the seller forfeits your real estate contract.


Does the seller have to go to court?

No. The seller can cancel (“forfeit”) your rights without going to court.


Does the seller have to forfeit the contract?

No. The seller can instead foreclose on the home as if they would if you had a mortgage. A seller who chooses to do it this way must follow the procedure in Foreclosure When You Have a Mortgage. Then you will have the same rights as someone with a mortgage.


When can the seller start the forfeiture process?

As soon as you fall behind in your payments.


What is the process?

A seller must send you a Notice of Intent to Forfeit, and then a Declaration of Forfeiture. If you get either, see a lawyer immediately.

*The seller cannot forfeit your real estate contract until at least 90 days have passed from the date the seller records the Notice of Intent to Forfeit.


Can I stop the forfeiture?

Yes, if you can both:

  • Make up payments at any time until the date in the Notice of Intent to Forfeit.

  • Pay the seller's expenses from starting the forfeiture process, if your real estate contract says you must do this.


The seller forfeited the contract. Do I need to move?

Yes, within ten days after the day the seller records the Declaration of Forfeiture. If you do not, the seller can start the eviction process.


The seller forfeited the contract. Can I get back the money I put into the home?

No. However, you will not owe the seller any more money.


Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 



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Last Review and Update: Oct 02, 2020