Understanding your mortgage loan

Have a question about your mortgage loan? The Attorney General's Office (AGO) may have an answer. See below for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions and links to resources.

What is a mortgage?

A mortgage is a type of loan that is secured by your property. 

In a mortgage, the lender agrees to give you the loan funds and you agree to make periodic payments to pay back the loan amount. Mortgages are often used to purchase a property.

In mortgage documents, you are referred to as the mortgagor and the lender is known as the mortgagee. In the mortgage itself, you agree to make monthly payments to the lender until the loan is paid off. If you do not make the payments, the lender can foreclose on your property.

I am struggling to pay, or cannot pay, my mortgage, where can I go for help?

Most lenders offer a variety of foreclosure alternative options. Your mortgage servicer is responsible for reviewing your loan for options. If you are struggling to pay your mortgage, contact your mortgage servicer as soon as possible. 

See Preventing Foreclosure for more information.

Who is my mortgage servicer?

A mortgage servicer handles the day-to-day management of your mortgage loan account. This includes collecting payments, applying funds, and managing escrow accounts. The servicer is who you contact if you have questions about your mortgage loan account. For more information about mortgage servicing, visit the Federal Trade Commission's website.

Your mortgage servicer is the company that sends you the bill for your mortgage payment. You should receive monthly statements from your mortgage servicer, even if you are in foreclosure. However, you may not receive one if you filed bankruptcy. From time to time, a mortgage servicer may sell the servicing rights to your mortgage. In most instances, you are entitled to notice of the transfer from both your old and new servicer. You should receive this notice even if you are in the foreclosure process. If you do not know who services your mortgage, you may be able to find out your servicer by calling MERS at 1-888-679-6377 or visiting the MERS website. If your loan is not in the MERS system, look for the most recent mortgage statement you have and ask that servicer.

Who owns my mortgage?

The company that services your mortgage may not be the same as the one that owns your mortgage. About 50% of mortgages are currently owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. To find out if your loan is owned by:

If your loan is in the MERS system, you may be able to find out who owns your loan by calling MERS at 1-888-679-6377 or visiting the MERS website.

If your loan is not owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or in the MERS system, you can write to your mortgage servicer and ask for the name of your mortgage owner. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) mortgage servicing rules gives you the right to request certain information from your servicer. You can find a sample RESPA request for information on the CFPB's website.

Does it cost money to seek mortgage assistance?

Your mortgage servicer will never charge an application fee or other upfront fee to review you for a foreclosure alternative. Also, federal and state laws do not allow companies to charge you an upfront fee to help with a loan modification. See Foreclosure-Related Scams for more information.

Many resources offer assistance at no charge. These include US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved housing counselors, legal aid organizations, and the AGO’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division.  See Resources for Distressed Homeowners for more information.

Can a previous owner’s mortgage affect my title?

Once a property is mortgaged, the mortgage lien remains on the property until the loan is paid in full and the lender releases the mortgage. If the owner sells the property to someone else without paying off the loan, the mortgage follows the property to the new owner. For that reason, it is usually a condition of sale or refinancing that all previous mortgages are discharged. However, if you got your property through a divorce or inheritance, it may be subject to the pre-existing mortgage.

Some homeowners acquired their property with a forclosure in the title history. If the previous foreclosure was not done according to the requirements of the law, it may affect the new owner’s title. If this is your situation, you may wish to contact your title insurance company.  You can ask them to investigate the issue on your behalf and defend your title as necessary. If you did not originally have title insurance, you may wish to consult with an attorney.  You may want to ask about your rights under Massachusetts’ Act Clearing Titles to Foreclosed Properties

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