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Cosigning is ALWAYS a Bad Idea

We understand how hard it is to say no, especially to a friend or family member.  Let me say this loud and clear, when a family member of a friend asks about cosigning a loan for them, RUN FOR THE HILLS! JUST SAY NO! DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SIGN THAT LOAN!

No matter how sure you are that they won’t default on the loan, you may even feel it in your soul, DON’T DO IT.  If a lender is asking for a cosigner, there’s a good reason. It’s because they believe that the primary borrower won’t be able to make their financial obligations.  More often than not, the lender is right.

When it comes to cosigning, you’re being asked to guarantee a debt.  If the primary borrower doesn’t repay the debt, you’re on the hook for the debt and the creditor WILL come after you. You’ll be on the hook for late fees, collection costs, attorneys fees and the principal balance of the loan.  If the debt goes into default it WILL show up on your credit report. The bottom line is, cosigning is always a bad idea.

Cosigning is always a bad idea.  Have I made myself clear up to this point? Cosigning a debt puts you in the worst possible situation.  You receive no benefit from the loan you’re cosigning. You aren’t getting a student loan to improve your education, you’re not getting a house to live in and build equity in, you’re not getting that flashy new car to ride around town in. You’re just on the hook for all of it.  You can have you bank accounts and assets seized, your paycheck garnished, you could be subject to litigation and you could ultimately end up in bankruptcy.

We understand that it’s difficult to refuse to help someone you love.  Telling friends or family members no is one of the toughest things you can do. However, it may be the best thing you can do for your relationship.  Think about what your relationship will be like if your friend or family member defaults on the loan or even just misses a payment. That’s going to show up on your credit at a minimum and will likely bring your score down 20 or more points.  The damage that cosigning can do to relationships can not be understated. You’ll be left with a loan and a relationship that will be severely damaged from here forward.

If you’ve cosigned a loan with someone who has missed payments or defaulted on a loan completely and you find yourself on the hook for their mistakes the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove can help.  We are experts in dealing with these kinds of issues through the bankruptcy code.  Contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation about how we can help you get out from under these debts and get your life back.

The Great Things about Chapter 13

Most people come in to our office wanting to do a Chapter 7.  They think it’s the best thing possible because it lets them cancel all their debts. While for some people, that’s a good thing, for others it can cause a lot of problems.  I happen to think that Chapter 13 bankruptcies allow for the most flexibility which is why I believe that should a 13 be a good option for someone, they should definitely pursue it.  Below, I lay out a list of reasons why I believe a Chapter 13 is a great option for certain people.

Chapter 13 cases are great because:

  • The amount of money you repay to your creditors can be as little as 0%. While that sounds too good to be true, it is, depending on your individual situation of course.
  • You keep your stuff, unless you don’t want to.  You keep your house, your business, your car, etc.  No one is snooping around trying to find things to sell.  
  • You can amend a Chapter 13 during the case.  If your income goes down, you lose a job, or you just go out on maternity leave, the plan can be amended to accommodate those life changes.     
  • You can dismiss your case if you want.  You can literally just walk away. While that isn’t necessarily a good idea, you can do it, unlike in a Chapter 7 plan.
  • The automatic stay protects you for the entirety of your case.  You can’t be a victim of foreclosure or repossession if you abide by the plan.
  • If you’re behind on your mortgage, the amount you’re behind can be included in the plan and caught up over the course of the plan.  
  • If you have a really big interest rate on your car, the amount of the interest rate can be reduced to a lower rate.  
  • The IRS HAS to abide by the plan and let’s be honest, no one likes the IRS.
  • Your attorney’s fees are included in the plan.  You don’t have to come up with the money to pay your lawyer up front.  

Other advantages to Chapter 13s

If you do have to file a Chapter 13 case, you’re eligible for another Chapter 13 (should you need one) a whole lot sooner than you can if you had filed a Chapter 7.  In fact, its ok to file a second Chapter 13 two years from the filing of your first case.  

Generally speaking, a Chapter 13 is off your credit a whole lot sooner than a Chapter 7.  Usually, a 13 is gone two years after you complete a 5 year plan.

Unlike working with a debt settlement agent, your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is enforced by the full weight of the federal court system.  ALL your creditors must abide by it or the face severe penalties. NO creditor can opt out and at the end of the Chapter 13 Plan, the debt you owe them is gone, one way or another.

In the end, a Chapter 13 case is a great way to get back on your feet after a period of financial difficulty.  Our attorneys have filed THOUSANDS of Chapter 13s and we have decades of experience successfully shepherding cases through the court.  Contact our office today for a free, no obligation consultation to find out of you qualify for a Chapter 13 case.  

2nd Mortgage Lien Stripping in Bankruptcy.

A 2nd mortgage or home equity line of credit (HELOC) can be a very tricky situation when it comes time to file bankruptcy.  Unfortunately, due to the housing collapse and the Great Recession of 2007, many people in this country have multiple mortgages or other types of loans attached to their homes, often a high rates of interest.  Despite what people may think, 2nd mortgages and HELOCs CAN be stripped and removed through the 2nd Mortgage Lien Stripping process in a bankruptcy if you have the right circumstances.   

Here’s how they’re treated by the bankruptcy court

A HELOC in Chapter 13 bankruptcy:

Chapter 13 bankruptcies require debtors to make payments to the holder of their primary mortgage holder as well as a Chapter 13 Trustee.  The Trustee’s job is to distribute these payments among the creditors who hold priority status. In a Chapter 13, your HELOC debt may ultimately be discharged as the lender will have likely gotten a percentage of the payments you made into your case through the trustee’s office.  

A HELOC in Chapter 7 bankruptcy:

In a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you can cancel the debt on your home equity line of credit.  The only problem with this is the fact that you can’t cancel the lien that the creditor has on the house.  As a matter of fact, the HELOC lender could possibly still foreclose on your house after the bankruptcy has concluded.  While it would only benefit them if there was equity in the house, there’s still technically no way to stop them from doing this.  The best way to avoid a foreclosure after a Chapter 7 has concluded is to sign a reaffirmation agreement with your HELOC lender during the bankruptcy.

Second mortgages in Chapter 13:

2nd Mortgage Lien Stripping is possible when a second mortgage isn’t secured by a home’s value and can potentially be eliminated in a Chapter 13.  Homes that are underwater may have second and third mortgages that aren’t secured by the value of the property anymore due to the fact that the amount of the loans total more than the current value of the property.  One thing to remember though is that discharging a second or third mortgage will have no effect on what you owe on your first mortgage and you will still have to pay that mortgage in full.

If you find yourself facing the reality of foreclosure due to a second or third mortgage on your home and you think that 2nd mortgage lien stripping may be right for you, come see one of our experienced attorneys at Harmon and Gorove today.  Our attorneys have decades of experience handling cases like this and they can advise you if you will benefit from this valuable tool under the bankruptcy code.  

Cramdown: reducing the principal on secured debts

When considering filing a chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may find yourself in the position to be able to reduce the principal balance of a secured debt to the actual value of the property (car, household item, etc.) it is secured by. When you reduce this amount of debt in this way it is known as a “cramdown” and can be a very valuable tool in your bankruptcy case that can potentially save your automobile, real estate investments, and other personal property you have pledged to secure a debt. Because of the way the law is written, you aren’t allowed to use the cramdown provision on your primary home  but using it in other aspects of your financial life can net massive savings.

When your attorney initiates a cramdown, you’re taking the value of a secured item like a car and reducing the balance you owe in order to match the item’s true book value. When this happens, the crammed down amount is then placed in your unsecured debt in your Chapter 13 case. A cramdown can be extremely beneficial in certain cases and might allow you to pay only a small percentage of your unsecured debt.  Filing things this way could result in all of your unpaid unsecured debt being discharged at the conclusion of your Chapter 13 case. There are many other advantages to cramming down your loans with a Chapter 13. This includes reduced interest rates, the potential to stretch the payments across a greater period of time which might very well reduce monthly payment amounts to a more affordable level. Another fantastic benefit is that you can escape liabilities on any deficiencies by using a mortgage cramdown on investment real estate.

As with much in life, the cramdown in a Chapter 13 seems often seems too good to be true. While this is not the case, it does come with certain guidelines that were passed by Congress to place certain restrictions on how, why and when you can initiate a cramdown. The cramdown restrictions to remember are the 910 Day (roughly two and a half years) Rule on car loans, the One Year Rule on personal property (think TVs, furniture, etc.), and the restrictions on investment real estate mortgages.

The attorneys at Harmon and Gorove are extremely experienced in using cramdowns to the benefit of their clients.  With decades of combined experience, our team can help you find out of you qualify for a cramdown in a Chapter 13 and help you successfully navigate the intricacies of a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy so that you may emerge on the other side debt free.  Call our office today to set up a free consultation with an experienced and compassionate Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Attorney.

Bankruptcy, Foreclosure and the American Dream

During times like this more and more Americans have found themselves to be faced with the prospect of foreclosure or bankruptcy. American society puts a high value on owning a home and for many people it is a source of personal wealth and pride. For the many people who have been through the foreclosure process or filed for bankruptcy protection, being able to purchase a new home and start over again seems like it is an unattainable dream.

There is good news though, recent interviews with people in the housing industry (builders, realtors and lenders) suggest that people who have been through the foreclosure process or have filed for bankruptcy protection are often able to return to homeownership sooner than previously thought.  There are steps to take though in order to attain the dream of homeownership again.

Getting back on track

Foreclosures and bankruptcies often stay on someone’s credit for 7 years or more.  Because of this you must take deliberate steps towards rebuilding your credit as soon as you possibly can.  Consistently making bill payments on time, paying down credit cards, lowering other debt, and avoiding going into additional debt can cause credit scores to be dramatically improved within months of being discharged from bankruptcy or completing the foreclosure process.

Many experts say that many people who work diligently at rebuilding their credit and are save money for down payments are able to buy another home within two to 3 years. Federal Housing Agency (FHA) loans are a frequently used way for previously foreclosed upon homeowners to be able to finance a new home purchase. Many former homeowners who have been through a foreclosure or bankruptcy cannot qualify for conventional mortgages and FHA loans have exploded in popularity amongst people with little credit or damaged credit

Generally speaking, conventional mortgages offer interest rates that are lower than FHA mortgages but conventional mortgages often require a downpayment of 20 percent of the price of the home, a credit score of at least 720 and a proof of income. Comparatively, FHA mortgages, only require credit scores of about 620 and a down payment of 3.5 percent of the home’s purchase price, which makes it much more attractive for lower income people or people with little savings.

FHA loans have drawbacks. In addition to higher interest rates, FHA mortgages are subject to a mandatory insurance premium of 1.75 percent of the loan. While this sounds like a lot more money up front, often, these costs can be rolled into the total amount of the loan. Additionally, payments of 1.25 percent of the outstanding balance are required of the homebuyer each year. Many Americans find that FHA loans are a more affordable option despite these drawbacks.

FHA mortgages are not the only available option for homebuyers. Many former homeowners eligible for first-time homebuyer programs and if you qualify for Veterans benefits, you might qualify for a mortgage under the VA. These different programs help buyers to make the down payment and handle the closing costs of the loans. Generally speaking, programs like this are available to homeowners who have not owned a home within the previous three years.

A competent Attorney can help

If filing for bankruptcy is something you’re considering or you find yourself  threatened with a foreclosure it can feel like your world is collapsing around you. We cannot state more emphatically that this is not the case. The experienced bankruptcy attorneys of Harmon and Gorove can explain the bankruptcy and/or foreclosure process and advise you on how it will affect your financial situation. Armed with facts, expert analysis and years of experience our team can recommend the best debt-relief option for your particular situation. With the planning, guidance and the expertise of our team your dream of owning a home again can once more become a reality.

 

What is foreclosure and what does it mean?

Foreclosure essentially means the process of repossessing real estate that the mortgage has fallen behind on to the point where the lender has reason to believe that you will be unable to catch back up.  Banks that complete the foreclosure process will list the home for sale in order to recover some or all of the money the bank lost on the original transaction. In the event that the bank has listed the home in the Multiple Listing Service, then the home can be put up for sale and the foreclosure process is complete.

There are three stages of the foreclosure process:

  • Pre-foreclosure: at this point the bank files a notice for lack of payment. This is generally when the homeowner falls behind two months in the payments. The owner will generally be afforded a period of between two and three months to attempt to refinance the loan or sell the property on short sale.
  • Auction: At this point the bank has set up an auction on the courthouse steps (a legal step in the foreclosure process in Georgia) in a bid to sell the home and recover its costs.
  • Bank owning: in the event that the home was not successfully sold at the auction, the lien holders have two options. The first option is being paid off by private mortgage insurance and the other option is that they can take a loss on the investment.

If successful, foreclosures can have a number of financial consequences for the former homeowner depending on the agreements that were in the loan agreement that you signed when you purchased the home. The most significant consequence is that the homeowner loses the home, is evicted and loses all the equity you have built up in the home. You could also be sued for any amount the lender does not recover in the sale of your home and you could also potentially face tax consequences with your state and the federal government. It is extremely important that a person knows their rights in the foreclosure process.

If you are experiencing a potential foreclosure call the experienced attorneys at Harmon and Gorove and schedule a free consultation with a dedicated attorney who can help you navigate the foreclosure process and potentially save your home and stop the process of foreclosure.  We have helped thousands of people save their homes, come let us see what we can do for you.