Q: My friend just bought a house a month ago and I agreed to be the co-buyer of the house.

Now, I want to get off of the title because my friend who bought the house just told me the he will not be able to make these payments since his wife lost her job. But, I don’t want to pay something I didn’t want in the first place.

He does not know what to do. What should I do? I am just the co-buyer.

A: You’re not the co-buyer — you’re an owner of the property and I presume you’re listed on the mortgage as well. As far as the mortgage lender is concerned, you are (and always were) considered a primary borrower on the property. If your friend fails to pay the mortgage, the lender will come after you for the money and his failure to pay on the mortgage can hurt your credit history and credit score.

What you should do now, if you want to protect your credit history and score, is to make the payments on this property. If you’re listed on the mortgage, you’re legally liable for those payments. If you fail to make the payments, the lender will foreclose on the property and it will destroy your credit.

If you can’t make the payments, tell your friend to move out of the property, and find a renter to help defray costs until you can get the property sold.

Unfortunately, you’ve discovered the primary danger of “lending a signature” to someone – if that friend suddenly can’t afford to make the payments, you’re on the hook.

For more details, please seek the advice of a good real estate attorney.

Published: Mar 29, 2007