Partial mortgage payment is risky

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Dear Dr. Don,
What would happen if I paid my interest and principal payment without making the escrow payment for two months?

My mortgage payment is currently 30 days past due, and I want to at least show that I am making an attempt to stay current on my mortgage. We also expect a “reduction in taxes” notice will be mailed out in two days, and an escrow analysis will be done again at that time.

I realize I need to pay the escrow but want to see if it would keep us from being further behind in mortgage payments to the bank.
— Concerned Homeowner

Dear Concerned,
You really need to talk this through with the lender or loan servicer. It’s common for lenders to not accept partial payments. If that’s the case, the lender can return your check for partial payment, and you’ve accomplished nothing by sending them that check.

It’s also possible that if they accept the check, they also get to decide how the funds are allocated between principal, interest, taxes and insurance, or PITI.  The loan document should speak to this situation, but the lender can explain this as well. The lender faces a bigger risk in your home not being insured, or for the nonpayment of property taxes, than it does in not collecting the principal and interest payments.

You didn’t describe how you got behind in your payments. It’s possible that, even though you’ve been 30 days late on your mortgage, you may still qualify for the U.S. government’s refinancing or loan modification program. You can learn more about these programs in the Bankrate feature “Check your mortgage help eligibility” or at the government’s Web site.