But I’m Only a Co-signor!
You have a family member that doesn’t qualify for a mortgage on their own and needs a co-signor. Since you’re a nice person, and of course would like to see your son/daughter/parent/sibling in a better position, you agree to co-sign for the mortgage.
If I had a dollar for anytime I’ve heard the phrase “but I’m only co-signing right, they can’t come after me for the money or touch my house?” I’d be rich!
There are many common myths around co-signing. Here’s only a few and the truths associated with each one…
- I’m only co-signing for my family member to get the mortgage and that I won’t have to ever make payments. False: You are equally responsible for making the payment on the mortgage. If the borrowers default, you will be required to pay.
- I can’t be sued for non-payment since it’s not my mortgage. False: The lender has all legal collection methods available to them to collect payment from you, including obtaining judgment in court and possible garnishment of wages and bank accounts.
- The bank can’t take my house if the borrower loses theirs. False: As per the second myth above, judgment action can also involve seizure and sale of any of your assets including and not limited to your own home.
- I’m only a co-signor or a guarantor so I’m protected from not having to pay. False: Whether you are the borrower, co-signor, or guarantor, you are fully responsible for the debt.
- Co-signing on this debt won’t affect my ability to obtain credit in the future. False: Not only will you legally have to declare the co-signed debt when you apply for credit, but also most lenders in Canada are now reporting to the credit bureau and it will appear when you apply. Either way, the mortgage payment must be factored into your debt service ratio.
- Since this is only a five-year term, I am automatically released from this mortgage in five years. False: Regardless of term, you remain on the mortgage until it is paid in full or released only with approval from the lender.
Here’s a few tips and questions to ask before agreeing to co-sign on a mortgage…
- Know the borrowers’ situation. What is there credit like? Are they drowning in debt? Why exactly is a co-signor required?
- Is there an exit strategy to have your name released and how long will that take?
- Add your name to title of the property so that the borrower cannot add a second mortgage to it. This is an asset that you have an interest in and therefore should protect it.
- Get independent legal advice about your obligations as a consignor.
- Be prepared to make the mortgage payments of the borrower doesn’t.
- Don’t be afraid to say no to co-signing if it doesn’t feel right.
Knowledge of the borrowers situation, your obligations, and potential ways to protect yourself (and of course setting emotions aside) is the best advice for anyone co-signing. And if you have any questions, please contact your local Dominion Lending Centres mortgage specialist.
By: Sean Binkley