What you need to know about the bank ‘selling’ your mortgage

DEAR MR. MYERS: We bought our house in 2014, but we received a notice from our lender last week that says our mortgage has been “sold” to another bank. What does this mean? Is this a scam? Even if it’s not, will it hurt our credit score because we now will have to deal with a new bank, even though we built a good score by always making our monthly mortgage payments to the old one?

ANSWER: You probably don’t have anything to worry about. It’s common for lenders to sell their mortgages to other financial institutions, or to contract with third-party “loan-servicing” firms to handle a borrower’s monthly payments.

As a precaution, though, call the bank that provided your original mortgage to confirm that your loan has indeed been sold or has been transferred to a new company. Don’t call the phone number that’s on the notice that you received last week: Scammers can create a bogus customer-service line faster than gas can go through a funnel or eggs go through a hen.

Your credit score won’t be affected, assuming that the sale or transfer of your original mortgage is legitimate. The monthly payments that you have faithfully made in the past will remain part of your permanent score, even if the loan is sold several more times in the future.

REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: Though prices are skyrocketing in most parts of the country, a new survey by the National Association of Realtors states that only about 60 percent of Americans are concerned about the rising cost of buying or renting a home. Their bigger worries include the lack of affordable health care, low wages and high levels of debt that make it difficult to save.

DEAR MR. MYERS: I love to watch all the home-improvement shows on cable TV, but there is something that the hosts never explain. So, Dave, can you answer this: What is “blind nailing”?

ANSWER: It’s simply a term for nails that are hammered into a wall, covered up with putty and then painted so the heads of each nail won’t show. A similar technique (without the putty) is used to keep nails from appearing on newly installed hardwood floors.

DEAR MR. MYERS: We live in a large condo project that’s governed by a homeowners association. The office manager who works for the HOA recently quit, but now she wants access to the association’s two computers to retrieve what she calls “personal” emails and files. It’s our argument that any information that is on these two HOA-owned computers belongs to us, not her, and we’re worried that she may take or delete confidential files that could cause problems down the road for our neighbors or our association’s board of directors. What are the HOA’s legal rights in this situation?

ANSWER: There’s some good news here, but also a couple of things that your HOA should quickly do to avoid this type of problem in the future.

First things first: Several courts have already ruled that an employee has no reasonable expectation of privacy when using an employer-owned computer, cellphone or the like. Furthermore, any work that’s done on a computer that’s owned by an association or other employer belongs to the employer, not the worker.

In short, your HOA’s former office manager has no legal right to take, copy or delete any of the association’s computer files or other data.

The association, though, needs to ensure that it has a written policy that employees must sign, which clearly states that any work performed on its computers belongs solely to the HOA. The nonprofit National Federation of Independent Businesses (800-634-2669) even offers a free “model handbook” that associations and other small firms can replicate, though it’s best to have the HOA’s legal counsel review the information first.

Your letter doesn’t state what type of emails and files the former office manager wants to recover, but it’s likely that it’s stuff like birthday pictures of her children or silly jokes that a friend sent.

If that’s the case, the association’s board of directors could provide a file directory to the former manager, and then transfer any agreed-upon photos or documents to her via a small computer memory stick. The tiny sticks, about the size of a disposable cigarette lighter, are available at any electronics store and usually cost less than $10 or $20.

David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.