A common scenario I run into as a bankruptcy lawyer is that people will contact me because their home is in foreclosure and they want to find a way to save it, possibly by filing for bankruptcy. However, many of these people have let their mortgage fall so far behind that not even bankruptcy can help them. They waited too long to call a lawyer!
Unfortunately, the answer to my question “How many months are you behind on your mortgage?” is far too often “Years.” Many people who call me have tried to work with their mortgage companies for months or years to get their loan modified, and the bank refuses to accept payment while negotiations are underway. Meanwhile, the sale date on foreclosure proceedings is delayed and they continue to rack up more late payments.
When the bank finally puts a stop to negotiations and refuses to accept any modifications to the loan, all of the mortgage payments that were delayed suddenly become due and the foreclosure proceedings that the homeowner may have thought would be delayed again move forward. Some of these people have become 2 years or more behind on their mortgage payments and have only a few weeks to come up with the past-due amount.
If these homeowners are now 2 years behind with a mortgage payment of $850 a month, that’s $20,400 due immediately to save the house from being sold at foreclosure.
Not many of us have $20,400 sitting around – especially if we were already struggling to pay our mortgage.
Some of the people I talk to may have saved some money while they were negotiating with the mortgage company and weren’t required to pay their mortgage payment. However, the amount they may have saved is usually far less than what they owe. This could be because:
- A job loss or reduction in hours may have cut their income (causing them to fall behind on their mortgage in the first place).
- The money that would have been spent on the mortgage was used on other living expenses for which there weren’t funds.
- Unexpected expenses or emergencies came up that required use of those savings.
- The savings were used to pay down credit card bills or other debts, with the expectation that the mortgage would be modified.
What Bankruptcy Can Do For You
It is often when people find themselves on the eve of a foreclosure sale they thought would be postponed again but was not, and modification is off the table with as much as 2 years in past-due payments owed, that they call a bankruptcy attorney to try and save their home.
There are several types of bankruptcy, but when it comes to filing a bankruptcy with the purpose of trying to save your home from a foreclosure, Chapter 13 is generally the type of case filed. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a reorganization of debts that allows you to do things like catch up on your mortgage payments over the course of your bankruptcy payment plan.
Here’s the catch: A Chapter 13 bankruptcy can only go up to 60 months (5 years). During this time, you must pay your current mortgage payment IN ADDITION TO the past-due amount that you owe. Mortgage, plus.
It comes down to the math. The further you are behind on your mortgage when you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, the bigger your monthly payment must be to bring it current within the 5-year plan. You will also have some or all of your bankruptcy attorneys’ fees and a trustee commission to pay in your plan, in addition to any late fees or back taxes.
It’s not all bad news! A Chapter 13 bankruptcy offers many benefits if you are looking to reorganize your debts. You can reduce the interest you pay on a car loan and stretch out the payments. In some cases, you can reduce the balance you owe on your car loan, and credit card debts and medical bills can often be completely wiped out with little to no payments required. There are even some cases where you can “strip” off a second or third mortgage and treat that as a general unsecured claim (like a credit card).
Call a Bankruptcy Attorney before It’s Too Late!
Don’t wait until the mortgage company tells you that it won’t modify your mortgage and that you now owe more than you could afford to pay!
Don’t get me wrong. Modification, if it works, can be a great savior for home owners, particularly when income has declined and it is not going to go back up. However, there are no guarantees that the bank will accept your proposal, and if you wait too long before looking at other options, you may be out of options.
If bankruptcy is the right step for you, the sooner you file, the sooner you can take control of your debt and begin to pay it back (if you file Chapter 13) or the sooner you can free up some income by discharging your unsecured debts (most Chapter 13 cases and Chapter 7 cases).
The sooner you file, the less money you will pay in the long run in fees and penalties, as well, saving you a lot of money.
Don’t think of bankruptcy as a measure of last resort! If you are behind on your mortgage or have become over you head in debt, bankruptcy may be a powerful tool to help you better manage your budget and take control of your finances.
Call me today at 1-866-900-7078 for a free consultation and to talk about your options. Don’t wait until it’s too late!