“Let the Borrower Beware” When Dealing With Credit Unions

March 7, 2011

Most credit unions and some banks use “Loanliner” documents. These agreements are standard loan documents developed by CUNA Mutual Group and sold to financial institutions. Over 70% of all credit unions use Loanliner documents for their lending transactions. Included in standard Loanliner lending agreements is a provision in which the borrower agrees that all other loans with the lender are cross-collateralized.

Cross-what?

Cross-collateralization is basically the use of collateral from one loan to secure other loans. The cross-collateralization clause from a recent Loanliner agreement reads: “the security interest also secures any other loans, including any credit card loan, you have now or receive in the future from us and any other amounts you owe us for any reason now or in the future.” Credit unions are fond of using this clause in vehicle loan agreements to secure all other credit union debts with the vehicle. This often causes surprises (and anger) when an unsuspecting credit union member tries to trade-in his car and discovers that the debt on the vehicle includes a personal loan, a line of credit, and credit card balances.

There are a few options if you are faced with a cross-collateralized auto loan. First, you can file a Chapter 13 and cram-down the loan to match your vehicle’s value. Any remaining debt is discharged at the end of the Chapter 13 case. During a Chapter 13 case, you can pay a cram-down over three to five years.

During a Chapter 7 case, your attorney can simply ask the credit union to draft a reaffirmation agreement for the vehicle without regard to other debts. You are basically asking the credit union to voluntarily strip off the cross-collateralized loans. If the credit union refuses your request, you have two options: (1) surrender the vehicle and discharge all debts to the credit union; or (2) redeem the vehicle. Redemption is a process exclusive to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case where the debtor keeps a vehicle by paying the value of the vehicle, not the total debt that is owed. While similar to a Chapter 13 cram-down, redemption differs in that the payment to the secured creditor must be a lump sum. Payments are not permitted.

If you have an auto loan through your local credit union, review the loan paperwork with your attorney for a cross-collateralization clause. Your bankruptcy attorney can discuss your options with you and help arrive at the best financial decision for your family.
 

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