What to do if your mortgage is sold
Julie Garton-Good, GRI, DREI

Q:We found out five days before our next payment was to be made that our loan was sold. We sent the payment and don't yet know if it was credited correctly. Aren't there guidelines that lenders have to follow for a more timely notification to homeowners?

A:Guidelines do exist to protect you when your mortgage is sold to a new investor. Just because the maintenance or "servicing" of your loan has changed hands, there should be nothing that adversely affects you and your mortgage.

By law, the original lender should send you a "goodbye" letter at least 15 days before the date your next payment is due. The letter should state who your new servicing company will be, where it is located, the name and phone number of a contact person or department and where you should send your next payment.

You should receive a "welcome" letter from the new servicer outlining the same information.

It is very important that you receive both letters and that they are on the company's letterhead. If you receive only a letter from the new servicer, be sure to call your original lender to verify that your loan actually has been transferred. Several "bogus" operations have recently attempted to intercept mortgage checks by claiming to be the new servicing company.

If your payment is made through automatic checking withdrawal or electronic transfers each month, you will need to cancel your present arrangement and fill out new forms. Since this often takes time, you may need to send a check directly to the new company before the first withdrawal is received by the new servicer. Your "welcome" letter can help you determine this.

A free booklet entitled "When Your Loan is Transferred to Another Lender" is available from the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. You can request it by writing to 1125 Fifteenth St., NW., Washington, D.C., 20005.

Q:Our mortgage loan was recently sold to another company and our payment was late because we didn't know where to send it. Now they're asking us to pay a late fee. Can they do this?

A:No. Federal law protects the consumer against situations such as yours when lenders sell the servicing rights to loans.

If a borrower sends a payment on time, but to the wrong company, late fees will be waived for up to 60 days after the loan transfer.

Make a note of your circumstance on the face of the next payment coupon you send the letter -- but take a photocopy of that note before you send it.