A mortgage is a legally binding agreement between a home buyer and a lender that dictates a borrower's ability to pay off a loan. Every mortgage has an interest rate, a term length, and specific fees attached to it.
Written by Todd Carney, J.D. Harvard Law 2021.
Updated November 26, 2021
If you’re like most people who want to purchase a home, you’ll start by going to a bank or other lender to get a mortgage loan. Though you can choose your lender, after the mortgage loan is processed, your mortgage may be transferred to a different mortgage servicer. A transfer is also called an assignment of the mortgage.
No matter what it’s called, this change of hands may also change who you’re supposed to make your house payments to and how the foreclosure process works if you default on your loan. That’s why if you’re a homeowner, it’s important to know how this process works. This article will provide an in-depth look at what an assignment of a mortgage entails and what impact it can have on homeownership.
Assignment of Mortgage – The Basics
When your original lender transfers your mortgage account and their interests in it to a new lender, that’s called an assignment of mortgage. To do this, your lender must use an assignment of mortgage document. This document ensures the loan is legally transferred to the new owner. It’s common for mortgage lenders to sell the mortgages to other lenders. Most lenders assign the mortgages they originate to other lenders or mortgage buyers.
Home Loan Documents
When you get a loan for a home or real estate, there will usually be two mortgage documents. The first is a mortgage or, less commonly, a deed of trust. The other is a promissory note. The mortgage or deed of trust will state that the mortgaged property provides the security interest for the loan. This basically means that your home is serving as collateral for the loan. It also gives the loan servicer the right to foreclose if you don’t make your monthly payments. The promissory note provides proof of the debt and your promise to pay it.
When a lender assigns your mortgage, your interests as the mortgagor are given to another mortgagee or servicer. Mortgages and deeds of trust are usually recorded in the county recorder’s office. This office also keeps a record of any transfers. When a mortgage is transferred so is the promissory note. The note will be endorsed or signed over to the loan’s new owner. In some situations, a note will be endorsed in blank, which turns it into a bearer instrument. This means whoever holds the note is the presumed owner.
Using MERS To Track Transfers
Banks have collectively established the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, Inc. (MERS), which keeps track of who owns which loans. With MERS, lenders are no longer required to do a separate assignment every time a loan is transferred. That’s because MERS keeps track of the transfers. It’s crucial for MERS to maintain a record of assignments and endorsements because these land records can tell who actually owns the debt and has a legal right to start the foreclosure process.
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Assignment of Mortgage Requirements and Effects
The assignment of mortgage needs to include the following:
The original information regarding the mortgage. Alternatively, it can include the county recorder office’s identification numbers.
The borrower’s name.
The mortgage loan’s original amount.
The date of the mortgage and when it was recorded.
Usually, there will also need to be a legal description of the real property the mortgage secures, but this is determined by state law and differs by state.
The original lender doesn’t need to provide notice to or get permission from the homeowner prior to assigning the mortgage. But the new lender (sometimes called the assignee) has to send the homeowner some form of notice of the loan assignment. The document will typically provide a disclaimer about who the new lender is, the lender’s contact information, and information about how to make your mortgage payment. You should make sure you have this information so you can avoid foreclosure.
When an assignment occurs your loan is transferred, but the initial terms of your mortgage will stay the same. This means you’ll have the same interest rate, overall loan amount, monthly payment, and payment due date. If there are changes or adjustments to the escrow account, the new lender must do them under the terms of the original escrow agreement. The new lender can make some changes if you request them and the lender approves. For example, you may request your new lender to provide more payment methods.
Taxes and Insurance
If you have an escrow account and your mortgage is transferred, you may be worried about making sure your property taxes and homeowners insurance get paid. Though you can always verify the information, the original loan servicer is responsible for giving your local tax authority the new loan servicer’s address for tax billing purposes. The original lender is required to do this after the assignment is recorded. The servicer will also reach out to your property insurance company for this reason.
If you’ve received notice that your mortgage loan has been assigned, it’s a good idea to reach out to your loan servicer and verify this information. Verifying that all your mortgage information is correct, that you know who to contact if you have questions about your mortgage, and that you know how to make payments to the new servicer will help you avoid being scammed or making payments incorrectly.
In a mortgage assignment, your original lender or servicer transfers your mortgage account to another loan servicer. When this occurs, the original mortgagee or lender’s interests go to the next lender. Even if your mortgage gets transferred or assigned, your mortgage’s terms should remain the same. Your interest rate, loan amount, monthly payment, and payment schedule shouldn’t change.
Your original lender isn’t required to notify you or get your permission prior to assigning your mortgage. But you should receive correspondence from the new lender after the assignment. It’s important to verify any change in assignment with your original loan servicer before you make your next mortgage payment, so you don’t fall victim to a scam.