Bankruptcy Can Help Distressed Homeowners

April 9, 2012

Reuters.com recently published a story predicting an increase in home foreclosures in 2012. Banks slowed their foreclosure processes in 2011 due to the "robo-signing" scandal, but this past February five major banks settled a major lawsuit with 49 U.S. states. Now there are signs that foreclosures are ramping up again. One mortgage servicing provider recently reported "foreclosure starts" had increased 28 percent in January.

The Reuters article quoted RealtyTrac CEO Brandon Moore as saying that the "numbers point to a gradually rising foreclosure tide as some of the barriers that have been holding back foreclosures are removed." This new wave of foreclosures targets middle class homeowners hit hard by tough economic times. "The subprime stuff is long gone," said Michael Redman of 4closurefraud.org. "Now the folks being affected are hardworking, everyday Americans struggling because of the economy."

Current data estimates around 13 million Americans are unemployed and millions more are under-employed making it difficult to pay a monthly mortgage. To make matters worse, many homeowners are struggling with homes that are "underwater" – the market value of the home is worth less than the amount owed.

The federal bankruptcy process can help a homeowner manage a distressed home situation. First, the Bankruptcy Code allows the debtor to strip away junior mortgages that are entirely unsecure. For instance, if your home is worth $200,000, and you owe $200,000 or more on your first mortgage, any junior mortgage or judicial lien can be stripped off during a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This process is especially useful to homeowners struggling with HELOC loans.

Second, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can provide the homeowner with time to catch up past-due mortgage payments or property taxes. During a Chapter 13 bankruptcy the debtor is allowed up to five years to pay off mortgage arrears while the bank is prohibited from foreclosing. Finally, if you are unable to keep your home, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will allow you time to surrender your home back to the lender on your terms.

Bankruptcy is a legal shield that can protect you during tough financial times. If you are facing foreclosure, speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney and discuss how the federal bankruptcy laws can help you.

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