Ever happen to you? Well, it happened to a friend of mine this weekend. She and her husband are going through some serious issues and he holds the keys to all the checking accounts, locks down the money yet wants her to pay the bills and the mortgage. Well, if he doesn’t give her the money to make the mortgage payment, what is she to do?

How long can you go without paying your mortgage?

Here’s the deal, the mortgage payment is probably the most important bill you have. You need shelter and you need food. Those basics of survival need to be put at the top of the priority list. Credit cards, car payments, and student loans do not depend on your survival. Also, the people sitting behind the desk at those credit card companies could care less about your situation. They don’t know you and it makes no difference to them whether or not you make the payment. They will harass and call you all hours of the day and night if you don’t make the payment but at the end of the day, they won’t attack your basic survival skills.

Your mortgage, on the other hand, is important stuff. Your lender WANTS you to stay in the house and continue to make mortgage payments. They don’t want to repossess your home. They don’t want foreclosures and short sales on their books. The person answering your call will care – at least they should.

So this is why it is so crucial to make that mortgage payment on time every month. Most companies will allow a 15 day grace period so if the payment is due on the first you have until the 15th to get that payment into the bank. If you go past that deadline, red flags start to accumulate on your account and your credit.

If you are in a position similar to my friend where you either can’t make your mortgage payment or don’t have access to the funds, don’t wait!! Call your lender now… like right now. They need to know what’s going on. They may start to call you if you wait any longer and it’s better to be proactive than reactive. Let them know what’s happening and why you haven’t paid. They will offer solutions and temporary fixes until you can make the payment. But, at the very least, they will make a note of your call and that you have informed them of the situation. This can delay any steps toward foreclosure. They may offer mortgage mediation, a refinance, skipping a payment or catching up at a later time. There are options but the biggest mistake you can make is to not inform them.

Related: When does refinancing make sense?

Separations, divorces, and financial issues can be tricky but letting the lender know what’s happening can save you some stress, at least in that area.