If you get behind on your mortgage payments, a lender may take steps to foreclose -- that is, enforce the terms of the loan by selling the house at a public auction and taking payment of your loan out of the auction.The foreclosure process typically starts after you fall behind on your payments for at least two months, and often three or four. You may be in a situation where you want to catch up on your payments and keep the house. Likewise, it may be best for you and your family to just walk away from a bad loan, and use bankruptcy to strip away the debt. In either situation, bankruptcy under a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 can be used to assist you. Let the Law Office of Trunnell and Sellers assist you in this decision.
When you file either a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the court automatically issues an order (called the Order for Relief) that includes a wonderful thing known as the “automatic stay.” The automatic stay directs your creditors to cease their collection activities immediately, no excuses. If your home is scheduled for a foreclosure sale, the sale will be legally postponed while the bankruptcy is pending—typically for three to four months. However, there are two exceptions to this general rule:
Motion to lift the stay. If the lender obtains the bankruptcy court’s permission to proceed with the sale (by filing a “motion to lift the stay”), you may not get the full three to four months. But even then, the bankruptcy will typically postpone the sale by at least two months, or even more if the lender is slow in pursuing the motion to lift the automatic stay.
Foreclosure notice already filed. Unfortunately, bankruptcy’s automatic stay won’t stop the clock on the advance notice that most states require before a foreclosure sale can be held (or a motion to lift the stay can be filed). For example, before selling a home in California , a lender has to give the owner at least three months’ notice. If you receive a three-month notice of default, and then file for bankruptcy after two months have passed, the three-month period would elapse after you’d been in bankruptcy for only one month. At that time the lender could file a motion to lift the stay and ask the court for permission to schedule the foreclosure sale.
Many people will do whatever they can to stay in their home for the indefinite future. If that describes you, and you’re behind on your mortgage payments with no feasible way to get current, the only way to keep your home is to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you are only a few payments behind, a Chapter 7 plan may be available as well.
How Chapter 13 works. Chapter 13 bankruptcy lets you pay off the “arrearage” (late, unpaid payments) over the length of a repayment plan you propose—five years in some cases. But you’ll need enough income to at least meet your current mortgage payment at the same time you’re paying off the arrearage. Assuming you make all the required payments up to the end of the repayment plan, you’ll avoid foreclosure and keep your home.2nd and 3rd mortgage payments. Chapter 13 may also help you eliminate the payments on your second or third mortgage. That’s because, if your first mortgage is secured by the entire value of your home (which is possible if the home has dropped in value), you may no longer have any equity with which to secure the later mortgages. That allows the Chapter 13 court to “strip off” the second and third mortgages and recategorized them as unsecured debt– which, under Chapter 13, takes last priority and often does not have to be paid back at all.
It may be that you wish to give up your home and walk away from a terrible loan. In that case, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy will at least stall the sale and give you two or three more months to work things out with your lender. It will also help you save up some money during the process and cancel debt secured by your home.
Saving money. During a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can live in your home for free during at least some of the months while your bankruptcy is pending -- and perhaps several more after your case is closed. You can then use that money to help secure a new living situation.
Canceling debt. Chapter 7 bankruptcy will also cancel all the debt that is secured by your home, including the mortgage, as well as any second mortgages and home equity loans.
Superior to Short Sales
Short sales often do not go through successfully, especially when there is a second lender. Often clients come into my office frustrated and irritated that they wasted so much time, when a bankruptcy would have been much more efficient and clean.
Canceling tax liability for certain property loans. Thanks to a new law, you no longer face tax liability for losses your mortgage or home-improvement lender incurs as a result of your default, whether you file for bankruptcy or not. This new law applies to the 2007 tax year and the following two years.
However, the new tax law doesn’t shield you from tax liability for losses the lender incurs after the foreclosure sale if:
This is where Chapter 7 bankruptcy helps. It will exempt you from tax liability on losses the lender incurs if you default on these other loans.