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There is No Due on Sale Jail

Aug 18, 2007
The "due-on-sale" clause is probably the most talked about, feared and misunderstood topic in real estate. This article will dispel any misunderstandings you may have about the due-on-sale and suggest a simple, yet effective strategy to get around it.

Before we discuss how to get around the due-on-sale, we must understand what it is and where it came from. The due-on-sale (a.k.a "acceleration clause") is a provision in a mortgage document which gives the lender the right to demand payment of the remaining balance of the loan when the property is sold. It is a contractual right, not a law. This means that if title to the property is transferred, the bank may (or may not), at its option, decide to "call the loan due."

An "assumable" loan is one which is secured by a mortgage which contains no due-on-sale provision. FHA-insured mortgages originated before 12/89 and VA-guaranteed loans originated before 2/88 contain no due-on-sale provisions. Nearly all loans originated today contain a "standard" due-on-sale clause which usually reads something like:

"If all or any part of the property herein is transferred without the lender's prior written consent, the lender may require all sums secured hereby immediately due and payable."

Banks began inserting due-on-sale clauses in their mortgages in the 1970s when interest rates rose dramatically. Home buyers were assuming existing loans rather than borrowing new money from banks because the interest rates on existing loans were lower. The banks used the due-on-sale as a way to kill their own worst competition. They argued that the reason for the restriction was to be able to police who was living in the property and the collateral for their loan.

This argument holds little water, since most banks haven't been enforcing due-on-sale violations since the early 80's when interest rates were high. In fact, Black's Law Dictionary defines the due-on-sale clause as a device for "preventing subsequent purchasers from assuming loans with lower than market interest rates." This idea was also confirmed by the Court in Community Title Company v. Roosevelt Savings & Loan 670 S.W.2d 895 (Mo.App. 1984): "The due-on-sale clause was a way of eliminating these low yielding loans as soon as the property was sold, so that it could re-loan the money at current higher rates or negotiate a higher rate in the event the purchaser assumed the existing loan."

The homeowners fought the banks in court claiming that the enforcement of the due-on-sale was "unfair trade practice" and an "unreasonable restraint on the alienation of property." In state courts, many homeowners were winning the argument. See, e.g., Wellenkamp v. Bank of America, 21 Cal 3d 943 (1978). The banks ultimately won in a United States Supreme Court case, Fidelity Federal Savings and Loan Association v. de la Cuesta, 102 S.Ct. 3014, (1982). Congress thereafter passed the "Garn-St. Germain Federal Depositary Institutions Act" (12 U.S.C. 1701-j), which codified the enforceability of the due-on-sale clause, despite state statute or case law to the contrary.

Many people are under the mistaken impression that transferring title to a property secured by a "due-on-sale" mortgage is illegal. This is because most lay people confuse civil liability with criminal liability. To be "illegal," you must be in violation of a criminal law, code or statute.

There is no federal or state law which makes it a crime to violate a due-on-sale clause. If the lender discovers the transfer, it may at its option, call the loan due and payable. If it cannot be paid, the lender has the option of commencing foreclosure proceedings.

So the real question is: are you willing to take a property subject to a mortgage containing a due-on-sale clause with the risk of getting caught?
About the Author
Richard Reichmann is internationally known as a millionaire maker. He's a leading consultant in real estate and internet marketing strategies that are profit proven.

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