What Happens if You Miss a Mortgage Payment?

If you miss a mortgage payment, you could face a penalty fee, a dip in your credit score, and if it goes unpaid long enough, foreclosure.
Written by Melanie Krieps Mergen
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
While missing one mortgage payment probably won’t immediately cause you to lose your home, you might have to pay a penalty fee, and your credit score could take a substantial hit. The longer your mortgage goes unpaid, the more likely you are to face foreclosure.
If there’s any monthly payment you want to prioritize, it’s definitely your mortgage payment. Missing even one mortgage payment can have costly consequences, and if left unaddressed, additional missed payments could put your status as a homeowner in jeopardy.
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What happens if you miss a mortgage payment?

Life is filled with unexpected events—and not always the welcome kind. At some point, a job loss, an unexpected expense, or a gradual increase in your other bills could cause you to miss a mortgage payment you’ve otherwise been able to afford.
Whatever the circumstances, the consequences of missing a mortgage payment will vary depending on the terms of your own mortgage. In most cases, a single late payment on your mortgage probably won’t be enough to send your home into foreclosure, but each missed payment after that will drastically increase your risk. 

What happens if you miss one mortgage payment?

In many cases, if you’ve missed a mortgage payment for the first time, mortgage lenders will have a grace period that will allow you to make your mortgage payment without penalty—often 15 days
If there was a simple problem, like you just forgot to move money over to your bank account you make your mortgage payment from, this would give you some time to correct it. 
If the reason you’re late on your payment is that you’re short on funds, you may need to communicate with your lender about your options. Often, you might have to pay an additional fee if you make a payment after your grace period, but this is still more ideal than missing your payment altogether.
A single missed mortgage payment could be reported to creditors if it’s over 30 days late, causing your credit score to take a hit. 
The effect could be substantial, too, considering your payment history holds the most weight when it comes to determining your credit score—35%, to be exact. If you have a higher credit score, you’ll probably take a more significant hit than someone with a lower credit score.
And these effects can linger for a while—late payments can remain on your credit report for up to seven years.
MORE: Reverse mortgage pros and cons: a quick overview

What if I miss more than one mortgage payment?

If you continue missing mortgage payments, the consequences could become more serious. What exactly happens might vary depending on your mortgage terms, your lender, and state laws.
If you miss a second mortgage payment, you should typically receive written notice at the 45-day mark about your late payments and information about what some of your repayment options may be. If your mortgage payments are over 60 days past due, you could face another round of late fees and a second hit to your credit score.
After 90 days, you’ll likely get what’s known as a “demand letter” from your lender that essentially serves as a warning: either pay the amount owed, or face foreclosure.
After 120 days, if your mortgage still hasn’t been paid, your lender can choose to proceed with foreclosure. What happens from here can vary depending on your state, but generally, you’ll be notified of the home’s scheduled sale date and when you’ll have to vacate the property.
However, in some states and under certain circumstances, it’s possible you still may have a brief window of time before that date to bring your mortgage payments back up to date and stay in your home. To get a better understanding of your own options when facing foreclosure, it’s a good idea to seek advice from a real estate law expert.

What should I do if I can’t make a mortgage payment?

If you come to the realization that you might not be able to make next month’s mortgage, there are certain steps you can take that could help alleviate some of the consequences that come with late payments:
  • Understand the terms outlined in your mortgage: What your mortgage documents state about late payments may provide guidance on how you should proceed.
  • Communicate with your lender as soon as possible: Foreclosure proceedings are costly for a lender, so depending on the circumstances, they may be willing to waive your late fee or hold off on reporting to creditors for a time, especially if you’ve typically been making on-time payments.
  • Ask your lender about forbearance options: If you’re facing financial hardship, a forbearance could allow you to temporarily pause or lower your monthly mortgage payments.
  • Set up a repayment plan: Lenders can often help you set up a repayment plan for your past-due mortgage payments, which will typically look like an extra monthly payment in addition to your monthly mortgage for a certain amount of time.

How to avoid a missed mortgage payment

While circumstances may not always be within your realm of control, the best way to avoid a missed mortgage payment is to do what you can to make your payments as affordable as possible. Here are just a few ways you could set yourself up to stay current with your mortgage payments:
  • Buy within your budget: Setting yourself up for making on-time mortgage payments starts during the borrowing process. Before signing onto a mortgage, make sure you understand what you can afford (which might be less than the maximum amount you were approved to borrow), and what your costs will actually look like after other expenses like utilities, maintenance, home insurance, and property taxes.
  • Set up automatic payments so you don’t have to worry about your payment due date slipping your mind.
  • Know your mortgage payment due date and how long your grace period is so you can quickly correct issues if they arise.
  • Ahead of your payment due date, check the bank account your mortgage payment comes out of to make sure you have sufficient funds.
  • When your due date arrives, verify your mortgage payment was successfully processed—be especially mindful of this if you’ve made any changes to your payment method, like adding a new account!
  • Limit your borrowing and spending in other areas so your finances aren’t stretched as thinly if you encounter unexpected expenses.
  • Consider refinancing options: If your monthly payments have become more difficult to keep up with, under the right circumstances, refinancing your mortgage could help you lower your interest rate and/or your monthly payments before you miss a payment, giving your budget additional flexibility. 

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Initially, late mortgage payment consequences will start with a penalty fee, and if the payment is more than 30 days overdue, it could be reported to credit bureaus.
The effect missed mortgage payments can have on a credit score is significant, since payment history makes up 35% of a credit score. Late payments tend to result in a steeper credit score drop for individuals with higher credit scores, and they can remain on a credit report for up to seven years.
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