Defeased Explained: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Defeasance

Defeasance, a term often encountered in the world of finance, can be a game-changer for borrowers navigating the complexities of loan repayment. But what is it exactly, and how can understanding this financial strategy benefit you? In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of defeasance, its implications in commercial real estate and multifamily loans, and the professionals who play a crucial role in ensuring a successful outcome.

Whether you are a borrower seeking flexibility in repaying loans or a professional looking to expand your knowledge, we have compiled all the essential information on defeasance to help you make informed decisions that could significantly impact your financial future. As a bonus, we will also discuss the concept of “defeased” loans and how they differ from traditional loan structures.

Key Takeaways

  • Defeasance is a financial strategy that enables borrowers to substitute loan collateral with securities, nullify the loan and avoid prepayment penalties.
  • Professional expertise is essential for successful completion of the defeasance process and debt defeasance provides borrowers with increased flexibility and financial relief.
  • Negotiating favorable terms can provide additional benefits when selecting defeasance, ensuring maximum savings potential.

Understanding Defeasance and Its Purpose

A man holding dollar bills as a loan

Defeasance is a financial strategy that enables borrowers to:

  • Substitute loan collateral with securities
  • Nullify the loan and avoid prepayment penalties
  • Guarantee a continuous stream of interest payments to the lender
  • Preserve a steady cash flow

In many instances, borrowers will purchase U.S. Treasury bonds or other government-backed securities, such as outstanding bonds, to satisfy the outstanding debt without incurring prepayment penalties.

The benefits of defeasance for borrowers are threefold: avoiding costly prepayment penalties, accessing the capital tied up in loan collateral, and freeing up their balance sheet from the loan. The procedure entails setting up an escrow account with a bank or trust company to safeguard the securities. This protects the lender’s interests and grants borrowers more flexibility.

The Mechanics of Defeasance

Defeasance requires reserving cash or bonds to meet the debt, which effectively cancels the obligation. To achieve this, borrowers replace the original collateral of a mortgage with securities, typically by acquiring government securities and placing them in an escrow account administered by a bank. This allows borrowers to obtain a clear title to the property and extinguish debt.

Defeasance’s workings guarantee the lender’s uninterrupted reception of interest payments, thus upholding a consistent cash flow. This is achieved through irrevocable instructions provided to the escrow agent, directing them to use the securities to service the debt. In essence, the original loan collateral is replaced with a reliable stream of income for the lender, granting borrowers the flexibility to refinance or sell their property without incurring additional costs.

Legal and In Substance Defeasance

There are two types of defeasance: legal and in substance. Legal defeasance entails depositing cash and approved securities into an irrevocable trust, as stated in the bond indenture, to completely satisfy the issuer’s obligation on the debt. This process completely extinguishes the debt from the borrower’s balance sheet, absolving them of any remaining financial liability.

In contrast, in substance defeasance lessens the effect of debt obligation on financial statements without entirely eliminating it from the balance sheet. This is achieved by substituting the debt with a portfolio of securities that share a similar risk profile. While this approach does not completely remove the debt from the borrower’s balance sheet, it minimizes the debt’s impact and can still be advantageous in certain circumstances.

Defeasance in Commercial Real Estate and Multifamily Loans

Commercial buildings in Seattle

Defeasance is regularly employed in commercial real estate and multifamily loans to facilitate early loan repayment and property transactions without incurring any associated penalties. In these cases, a bond counsel may be involved to ensure compliance with legal requirements.

The choice between yield maintenance and defeasance often depends on the interest rates and payment calculations of the loan. Defeasance is typically the most advantageous option when bond interest rates are compounded monthly and payments are calculated to the maturity date, whereas yield maintenance is more favorable if bond interest rates are compounded annually and payments are calculated to the loan’s prepayment date.

In some cases, a sinking fund may be used to facilitate the repayment of the loan.

Advantages of Defeasance for Borrowers

Defeasance offers borrowers a way to avoid prepayment penalties and gain increased flexibility when refinancing or selling their property. This is achieved by irrevocably pledging a portfolio of securities to service the debt, effectively removing any additional costs associated with early repayment.

Moreover, debt defeasance provides financial relief to borrowers by allowing them to access the capital tied up in their loan collateral. By replacing the original collateral with a portfolio of securities, borrowers can free up their balance sheet and capitalize on lower interest rates or dispose of their property without any additional financial obligations.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Defeasance

When selecting defeasance, borrowers should meticulously assess factors such as market interest rates, bond prices, and lender agreements. The interest rate environment can have a significant impact on the cost of the defeasance transaction, as can the prices of the bonds used in the process.

Lender agreements are another crucial consideration, as they can influence the terms of the defeasance transaction and dictate the conditions under which the process can be executed. By thoroughly assessing these factors, borrowers can make informed decisions and ensure that defeasance is the most advantageous option for their unique financial situation.

The Role of Professionals in the Defeasance Process

A laywer and a client at a table

Professionals, including attorneys and financial specialists, are integral to administering the intricate defeasance process, encompassing the selection of securities and adhering to legal regulations. Their expertise proves indispensable in navigating borrowers through the intricacies of defeasance transactions, offering vital support in risk management and legal compliance.

Having expert consultants in the defeasance process offers several benefits:

  • Assures compliance with all legal stipulations
  • Streamlines the process for clients, improving its manageability and efficiency
  • Involves professionals in various fields, including consultants, lawyers, accountants, and specialized defeasance consultants, who work together to achieve the best possible outcome for borrowers.

Selecting and Managing Securities

Experts assume a crucial role in choosing and overseeing securities for a defeasance portfolio, guaranteeing the lender’s continued receipt of income equivalent to the original loan. The selection of the appropriate securities is paramount to guarantee that the loan is properly defeased and that the borrower is adhering to all relevant laws and regulations.

Eligible securities for defeasance may include U.S. Treasury bonds, U.S. agency bonds, and corporate bonds, which provide a reliable and secure stream of income for the lender. The management of securities for defeasance entails monitoring their performance and making necessary adjustments to maintain the desired cash flow.

Navigating Legal Requirements

Legal and financial professionals ascertain the fulfillment of all legal requirements and the smooth execution of the defeasance process, thereby minimizing the risk of complications or errors. The legal requirements of the defeasance process may entail:

  • Submitting a notice of intent
  • Procuring and safeguarding the bonds in a custodial account
  • Registering and filing the bonds for tax purposes
  • Adhering to the provisions in the original loan documents and legal guidelines.

By involving legal and financial professionals, borrowers can have confidence in the successful completion of the defeasance process and the proper management of their securities portfolio. These professionals provide invaluable guidance in navigating the complex legal landscape of defeasance transactions and help to ensure a seamless and compliant execution.

Analyzing a Defeasance Example

To better understand the financial impact and benefits of defeasance, let’s consider an example. Suppose a borrower has an outstanding loan with a balance of $1 million and an interest rate of 5%. The borrower wishes to repay the loan early and refinance at a lower interest rate of 3%. To do so, they must engage in a defeasance transaction, purchasing government securities to replace their original loan collateral.

In this example, the borrower would need to create a defeasance portfolio of government securities with a value equal to the $1 million loan balance. The financial impact of this transaction would depend on:

  • The costs of purchasing the securities
  • The potential savings from avoiding prepayment penalties
  • The potential savings from refinancing at the lower interest rate.

By carefully analyzing the financial implications of a defeasance transaction, borrowers can make informed decisions that maximize their financial benefits.

Creating a Defeasance Portfolio

A man checking his financial portfolio

In creating a well-structured defeasance portfolio, borrowers must select securities that guarantee the lender an income equivalent to the original loan. This involves purchasing a portfolio of U.S. obligations or bonds that replicate the stream of payments owed to bondholders.

By constructing a defeasance portfolio that generates the same income or cash flow as the original loan collateral, borrowers can be released from the financial obligations of the debt. This enables them to refinance or sell their property without incurring additional costs, providing them with increased flexibility and financial benefits.

Assessing the Financial Impact

Assessing the financial impact of defeasance requires comparing the costs of the securities portfolio to the potential savings from avoiding prepayment penalties and refinancing at lower interest rates. The costs associated with the securities portfolio will depend on the type of securities acquired and the fees associated with their acquisition and maintenance.

The potential savings from defeasance ultimately hinge on the terms of the loan and the prevailing market conditions. By carefully analyzing the costs and benefits of defeasance, borrowers can make informed decisions that maximize their financial advantages and minimize potential risks, such as the risk of default associated with the securities not producing the same cash flow as the loan.

The Significance of Defeasance Clauses in Loan Agreements

A man signing a loan agreement

Defeasance clauses in loan agreements are vital for borrowers because they offer the opportunity to pay off the loan ahead of schedule without penalties or extra charges. These clauses offer borrowers the possibility to pay off their loan using a portfolio of securities rather than cash, providing enhanced flexibility and financial advantages in the long term.

For example, a borrower who sells their property before the loan term ends can use the proceeds to purchase bonds and create a defeasance portfolio, effectively satisfying their loan obligations without incurring prepayment penalties. This allows the borrower to capitalize on favorable market conditions or lower interest rates without any additional financial burden.

Defeasance Clause vs. Prepayment Penalty

Defeasance clauses and prepayment penalties serve different purposes when it comes to loan repayment. A defeasance clause enables a borrower to settle a loan without incurring a prepayment penalty, providing an opportunity for refinancing or selling a property without additional costs. In contrast, a prepayment penalty is a fee imposed on a borrower who pays off their loan ahead of schedule.

Grasping the difference between these two provisions is vital for borrowers when choosing the most appropriate loan structure. A defeasance clause offers increased flexibility, as it allows borrowers to capitalize on lower interest rates or dispose of their property without any additional financial obligations. On the other hand, a prepayment penalty can be costly and may deter borrowers from refinancing or selling their property.

Negotiating Defeasance Terms

Negotiating favorable defeasance terms with lenders can provide borrowers with increased flexibility and financial benefits in the long run. When negotiating these terms, borrowers should consider factors such as the cost of the defeasance, the timeline for the transaction, and the legal requirements involved.

By maintaining transparent communication with lenders and incorporating legal and financial professionals in the negotiation process, borrowers can safeguard their best interests and agree on the most beneficial defeasance terms. This can result in a more favorable loan structure, providing borrowers with the flexibility to refinance or sell their property without incurring additional costs or penalties.


Understanding the intricacies of defeasance can significantly impact borrowers’ financial decisions and long-term success. By exploring the mechanics of defeasance, its application in commercial real estate and multifamily loans, and the crucial role of professionals in the process, borrowers can make informed decisions that maximize their financial benefits and minimize risks.

Whether you are a borrower seeking flexibility in repaying loans or a professional looking to expand your knowledge, we hope this comprehensive guide has provided you with valuable insights into the world of defeasance. By mastering this financial strategy, you can unlock new opportunities and achieve greater financial stability in your endeavors.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when a loan is defeased?

When a loan is defeased, the borrower can pay off the outstanding debt without penalty or additional fees, freeing them to refinance or sell their property. The securities portfolio then takes over the payment stream, making remaining payments on the loan.

What does call defeased mean?

Call defeasance is the process of terminating certain bondholder rights and interests, along with their lien on pledged revenues or other security, according to the terms of a bond contract. This process is often used to reduce debt service costs, restructure debt, or to free up pledged revenues for other uses. It can also be used to reduce the complexity of a bond structure, or to reduce the amount of debt outstanding.

What types of securities are commonly used in defeasance transactions?

Defeasance transactions typically involve U.S. Treasury bonds and other government-backed securities.

What is the difference between legal and in substance defeasance?

Legal defeasance eliminates debt from the borrower's balance sheet, while in substance defeasance only reduces its impact on financial statements. This can be beneficial for companies that are looking to improve their financial position, as it allows them to reduce their debt burden without having to pay off the debt in full. It also allows them to free up cash flow.

In what scenarios is defeasance most advantageous for borrowers?

Defeasance is an attractive option for borrowers when the bond interest rate is compounded monthly and the yield maintenance penalty is high.

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