Foreclosure is the lender's right to force the mortgagee, or homeowner, to leave the property. Foreclosure is possible because the loan made to the homeowner was 'guaranteed,' meaning the lender was promised return on the loan. If the homeowner can't offer the lender money, then the lender recoups loss by seizing the property and selling it. The terms of the mortgage outline what circumstances must be present for the lender to foreclose on a property. Most loan terms require the mortgagor to be behind several payments before the foreclosure process can begin. A single late mortgage payment, while it may affect the homeowner's credit rating, usually won't result in foreclosure. When death or illness results in non-payment, many conventional mortgage companies are willing to make temporary, special payment arrangements with the homeowner. While lenders aren't required to do this, their best interests may be served by accepting late payments and fees rather than the costly legal process of foreclosure. For more information on foreclosure, contact a real estate professional or your lender.