Struggling Homeowners - Strip Off Your Unsecured Mortgage(s) and Keep Your Home

A chapter 13 bankruptcy case is usually filed in order to help a homeowner who experienced a job interruption or other financial hardship to stop a judicial sale of their home in a foreclosure.  The chapter 13 allowed the homeowner to cure the mortgage arrears over a 3-5 year time period.  That situation is still a reason to file chapter 13 but with the dramatic fall in home prices over the past few years, a chapter 13 can help a homeowner in a different way if the homeowner has more than one secured loan on their home.

Over the past few years we have seen a problem when homeowners had borrowed too much against non-existent equity in their homes with over-inflated values.  With the collapse of the real estate market homeowners are seeing their home become upside down by tens of thousands of dollars and questioning the economic sense of keeping that asset if non-bankruptcy loan modification programs are not an adequate solution to their predicament.  Especially, those with a ten year term where the homeowner has only been paying the monthly interest on the home equity line of credit.

A chapter 13 may help those with multiple liens on their home.  Bankruptcy cannot help when it comes to a first mortgage secured only by the homeowner’s principal residence except for providing time to cure a mortgage arrear.  However, a chapter 13 can be used to “strip off” a second, or third, or more mortgages on the homeowner’s principal residence.  This approach can provide a great deal of financial relief to the homeowner with the over encumbered home that has a home equity line of credit coming to term.  When a homeowner has refinanced/purchased with a second mortgage(s) or home equity line of credit, the homeowner may now see that the value of their home is far below the payoff balance on the first mortgage.  Assuming other requirements are met to file chapter 13, the homeowner may be able to eliminate that monthly second mortgage payment and use those freed up monies to fund a chapter 13 plan where they may end up paying only 10 cents on the dollar on that debt over a five year period.

This possible “strip off” of unsecured mortgage(s) is not automatic.  The homeowner’s case has to meet the requirements of a confirmable chapter 13 plan.  Also the unsecured lender may contest the valuation of the property or attack the case in some other approach.

Please keep in mind that this is only a cursory summary of one area of a chapter 13 bankruptcy.  If you would like more details about bankruptcy law, please do not hesitate to call contact me at either 847.705-79698 or thughes@lavellelaw.com