What is Acceleration Clause?

Legal Definition
An acceleration clause —or acceleration covenant— in the law of contracts, is a term that fully matures the performance due from a party upon a breach of the contract. Such clauses are most prevalent in mortgages and similar contracts to purchase real estate in installments.

Suppose, for example, the contract was for A to purchase Blackacre from B for $100,000, to be paid in 5 monthly installments of $20,000. If A makes the first two payments, but fails to make the third payment, an acceleration clause would require that A must immediately pay B the entire balance of $60,000, or lose his right to purchase Blackacre (without getting a refund of his $40,000).

A sample acceleration clause reads like this:

In the event of default in the payment of any of the said installments or said interest when due as herein provided, time being of the essence hereof, the holder of this note may, without notice or demand, declare the entire principal sum then unpaid immediately due and payable.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
A term in a loan agreement that requires the borrower to pay off the loan immediately under certain conditions.
Acceleration clauses are terms in loan agreements that require the borrower to pay off the loan immediately if certain conditions are met. For example, most home mortgages have an acceleration clause that is triggered if the borrower misses too many payments. Acceleration clauses most often appear in mortgages, both residential and commercial. They also appear in some leases.
Interest and payment
When a lender invokes an acceleration clause, the borrower must immediately pay the unpaid balance of the loan’s principal, as well as any interest that accumulated before the lender invoked the acceleration clause. The borrower does not, however, have to pay the full amount of interest that would have come due had the loan been paid off normally. For example, most loans allow the borrower to accelerate the loan and pay off the loan early in a single lump sum to avoid paying interest for the remainder of the loan’s term.
Invoking acceleration clauses
Few acceleration clauses trigger automatically. Instead, after the conditions in the clause occur, the lender may choose whether or not to invoke the clause. Where a lender gains the right to invoke an acceleration clause due to a borrower’s default, the lender may lose that right if the borrower corrects his or her default before the lender actually invokes the clause. In cases involving defaults for failing to make timely payments, tender is usually just as effective as actual payment at preventing the lender from invoking an acceleration clause.
Transfer and sale
Some mortgages have clauses that allow acceleration if the borrower sells or transfers the mortgaged property. These clauses are intended to protect the lender’s security interest in the mortgaged property. Accordingly, some of these “due-on-sale” and “due-on-transfer” clauses only allow acceleration if the sale or transfer would impair the lender’s security interest, or if the borrower fails to get the lender’s consent in advance. These types of clauses may not be triggered if property ownership transfers because the borrower died and the property passed to his heirs. Due-on-sale and due-on-transfer clauses are regulated by the federal Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982. 12 U.S.C. § 1701j-3(b)(1). The act only affects mortgages of real property.
Parties may waive their rights to invoke acceleration clauses by either express agreement or by inducing others to detrimentally rely on their behavior.
Home mortgages
Home mortgages’ acceleration clauses are designed to trigger in situations where the mortgagee might want to foreclose on the mortgage. This allows the mortgagee to attempt to recover the entire unpaid value of the mortgage, not just the value of a few missed payments.

In some jurisdictions, borrowers in this situation may undo mortgagees’ invocation of acceleration clauses and avoid foreclosure by making-up past-due payments and compensating the mortgagee for some or all of the costs associated with the borrower’s default. In most of these jurisdictions, the key idea is that the borrower must put the mortgagor in the position it would have been in but for the borrower’s default.

Home mortgages often include acceleration clauses that are triggered by failure to make regular payments, attempts to sell or transfer the land, failure to pay property taxes, failure to maintain proper insurance on the property, and failure to make payments on a separate mortgage on the same property.
Related topics
  • Debtor and Creditor Law
  • Mortgage Law Overview

  • Additional sources
    • State Property Statutes
Legal Definition
A clause written into financial agreements that allows the lender to demand a full payment at any time. This is only done when the payer does not pay. It is also called a call clause or an act of bankruptcy.