Q: I have had a home equity loan for the past eight years. Six months ago, I called the mortgage servicing company to ask for a payoff.

The toll-free number on my bill wasn’t working, so I decided to stop paying on the loan to make them contact me. But, no one has contacted me. What can I do?

A: If I understand you correctly, you’ve stopped paying on your home equity loan in order to get someone to call you back? This is like cutting off your hand so someone will open the door for you.

When you stop paying a mortgage, several bad things happen fairly quickly: You trash your credit history and credit score, there are late penalties and fees that are tacked onto what you owe the company and you may trigger “universal default” on your credit cards. If you have credit card debt you’re carrying, the interest rate you’re paying can skyrocket instantly.

No one is going to call you back from this company until it is too late. The next call you get is going to be from the foreclosure department, telling you they are starting foreclosure proceedings against your property. Or, maybe you won’t even get this call.

If you want a payoff number from the company, and you can’t get anyone to give it to you, you have several options: You can call toll-free directory assistance to see if they have a number for your lender; you can search the lender on the Internet to find a number for the company; you can hire a real estate attorney to assist you; go to a title company or escrow company and hire them to assist you, or pay more than what is owed and wait for them to send you a check for whatever you’ve overpaid after the company closes out the loan.

The worst option is to simply stop paying on your loan. Please don’t do that again. It just hurts you, not the mortgage company.

Good luck. Let me know what happens.

Published: Jul 5, 2006