Many people agree to cosign loans for friends or relatives. They do this as a favor, a vote of confidence or because they just can’t say no. Unfortunately, they often find that they’ve bitten off more than they intended to chew.
The cosigner of a loan agrees to be responsible for its repayment along with the borrower. While a lender will generally seek repayment from the debtor first, it can go after the cosigner at any time.
Note: Where a loan is guaranteed (not cosigned), the lender can usually go after the guarantor only after the principal debtor has actually defaulted.
Finance companies report that many cosigners end up paying off the loans they’ve cosigned—along with late charges, legal fees and all. Not only is this an unwanted out-of-pocket expense, but it can also be an undeserved blot on the cosigner’s credit record.
TIP: It’s better to guarantee a loan than to cosign it. However, if you’re willing to cosign a loan, at least try to get the lender to agree to refrain from collecting from you until the borrower actually defaults and try to limit your liability to the unpaid principal at the time of default. Then stay on top of the borrower’s financial situation to help avoid a default (for example, have the lender notify you whenever a payment is late). At least you can preserve your credit rating by nipping payment problems in the bud.