The transfer of title to real estate which is made to secure the performance of some act such as payment of money by the person making the transfer. Upon the performance of the act, the grantee agrees to convey the property back to the person who has conveyed it to him.
Mortgages are of several kinds: as they concern the kind of property, mortgaged, they are mortgages of lands, tenements, and, hereditaments, or of goods and chattels; as they affect the title of the thing mortgaged, they are legal and equitable.In equity all kinds of property; real or personal, which are capable of an absolute sale, may be the subject of a mortgage; rights in remainder and reversion, franchises, and choses in action, may, therefore, be mortgaged; But a mere possibility or expectancy, as that of an heir, cannot.A legal mortgage of lands may be described to be a conveyance of lands, by a debtor to his creditor, as a pledge and security for the repayment of a sum of money borrowed, or performance of a covenant with a proviso, that such conveyance shall be void on payment of the money and interest on a certain day, or the performance of such covenant by the time appointed, by which the conveyance of the land becomes absolute at law, yet the, mortgagor has an equity of redemption, that is, a right in equity on the performance of the agreement within a reasonable time, to call for a re-conveyance of the land.It is an universal rule in equity that once a mortgage, always a mortgage -- every attempt, therefore, to defeat the equity of redemption, must fail.
As to the form, such a mortgage must be in writing, when it is intended to convey the legal title. It is either in one single deed which contains the whole contract
and which is the usual form - or, it is two separate instruments, the one containing an absolute conveyance, and the other a defeasance. But it may be observed in general, that whatever clauses or covenants there are in a conveyance, though they seem to import an absolute disposition or conditional purchase, yet if, upon the whole, it appears to have been the intention of the parties that such conveyance should be a mortgage only, or pass an estate redeemable, a court of equity will always so construe it. As the money borrowed on mortgage is seldom paid on the day appointed, mortgages have now become entirely subject to the court of chancery, where it is an established rule that the mortgagee holds the estate merely as a pledge or security for the repayment of his money; therefore a mortgage is considered in equity as personal estate.The mortgagor is held to be the real owner of the land, the debt being considered the principal, and the land the accessory; whenever the debt is discharged, the interest of the mortgagee in the lands determines of course, and he is looked on in equity as a trustee for the mortgagor.
An equitable mortgage of lands is one where the mortgagor does not convey regularly the land, but does some act by which he manifests his determination to bind the same for the security of a debt he owes. An agreement in writing to transfer an estate as a security for the repayment of a sum of money borrowed, or even a deposit of title deeds, and a verbal agreement, will have the same effect of creating an equitable mortgage.
A mortgage of goods is distinguishable from a mere pawn. By a grant or conveyance of goods in gage or mortgage, the whole legal title passes conditionally to the mortgagee, and if not redeemed at the time stipulated, the title becomes absolute at law, though equity will interfere to compel a redemption. But, in a pledge, a special property only passes to the pledgee, the general property remaining in the pledger. There have been some cases of mortgages of chattels, which have been held valid without any actual possession in the mortgagee; but they stand upon very peculiar grounds and may be deemed exceptions to the general rule.
It is proper to, observe that a conditional sale with the right to repurchase very nearly resembles a mortgage; but they are distinguishable. It is said that if the debt remains, the transaction is a mortgage, but if the debt is extinguished by mutual agreement, or the money advanced is not loaned, but the grantor has a right to refund it in a given time, and have a reconveyance, this is a conditional sale. In cases of doubt, however, courts of equity will always lean in favor of a mortgage.