HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION: California Increases Protection

HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION: California Increases Protection

As of January 2021, California’s Homestead Exemption increases from a minimum of $300,000, to a maximum of $600,000. This means that many more homeowners in liquidation, Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings can keep their homes.
The California Civil Code will be amended as follows:
Sec. 704.730. (a) The amount of the homestead exemption is the greater of the following:
(1) The countywide median sale price for a single-family home in the calendar year prior to the calendar year in which the judgment debtor claims the exemption, not to exceed six hundred thousand dollars ($600,000).
(2) Three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000).
(b) The amounts specified in this section shall adjust annually for inflation, beginning on January 1, 2022, based on the change in the annual California Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers for the prior fiscal year, published by the Department of Industrial Relations.
The statute does not say whether this will apply in bankruptcy as the “automatic homestead,” or whether the debtor must file a Declaration of Homestead. Based thereon, the debtor should strongly consider filing the Declaration with the County Recorder.

SCOTUS: Violating Bankruptcy Discharge Serves Up Creditor for Contempt

SCOTUS: Violating Bankruptcy Discharge Serves Up Creditor for Contempt

The primary purpose of the bankruptcy stay [11 USC Sec. 362] is to protect the debtor. (In re Fuel Oil Supply and Terminaling, Inc., 30 BR 360, 362 (Bankr.N.D.Tex.1983), cited in In re Globe Investment & Loan Co., Inc., 867 F.2d 556 (1989)). By stopping all collection actions against the debtor, the bankruptcy stay acts 1) as an injunction to preserve the estate, and 2) to prevent the creditors from trying to go around the bankruptcy process to collect.
Once the debtor receive the discharge (11 USC Sec. 727), creditors are no longer able to collect the discharged debts. A creditor who, despite the discharge, seeks to collect a pre-bankruptcy debt, runs the risk of a contempt citation and punishment by the federal court.
And so it was held recently by the US Supreme Court which held that a business dispute with the debtor, that had begun prior to the debtor’s filing for bankruptcy, was discharged by the bankruptcy, and no further collection activity would be allowed.
Writing for a unanimous US Supreme Court, Associate Justice Breyer opined that the business creditors, who had initiated the lawsuit against the debtor (Mr. Taggart) had no reasonable basis to believe that the bankruptcy stay, and the subsequent discharge would not act to bar the continued litigation against the debtor. The debt was considered wiped away, and the creditors actions, seen objectively, were not only impermissible, but gave rise to contempt sanctions:
“Under the fair ground of doubt standard, civil contempt therefore may be appropriate when the creditor violates a discharge order based on an objectively unreasonable understanding of the discharge order or the statutes that govern its scope.”
Taggart v. Lorenzen, ___ U.S. ___, 139 S.Ct. 1795, 1801, 204 L.Ed.2d 129 (2019).
The facts showed that the creditors had a working knowledge of the effects of bankruptcy law, and objectively should have realized that the pre-bankruptcy debt was no longer collectible. Therefore, the Supreme Court remanded the matter back to the 9th Circuit, to impose appropriate sanctions:
“We conclude that the Court of Appeals erred in applying a subjective standard for civil contempt. Based on the traditional principles that govern civil contempt, the proper standard is an objective one. A court may hold a creditor in civil contempt for violating a discharge order where there is not a “fair ground of doubt” as to whether the creditor’s conduct might be lawful under the discharge order.”
The Takeaway: Creditors Who Know that a Debtor has Filed for Bankruptcy Should Take No Action Against the Discharged Debtor, without First Having a Very Detailed, Careful Conversation with an Attorney, Lest Those Creditors End Up Held in Contempt!!

TRUTH IN LENDING: Inaccurate Credit Report 2

TRUTH IN LENDING: Inaccurate Credit Report 2

TRUTH IN LENDING: : If a consumer feels that the information in her credit file (i.e., information held by the credit reporting agency, but not necessarily sent to inquiring lenders or other agencies) is inaccurate, her ultimate remedy is to file a lawsuit pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. Secs. 1681–1681x. To succeed in such a lawsuit, however, the Plaintiff will need to compile evidence. For example, the courts have held that “to state a claim under § 1681i [incorrect information in credit file], the plaintiff must show that the agency’s report contained factually inaccurate information, and that damages followed as a result.” Collins v. Experian Info. Sols., Inc., 775 F.3d 1330, 1335 (11th Cir. 2015) (“A `consumer report’ requires communication to a third party, while a `file’ does not.”); cited in Losch v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC, 995 F.3d 937, 944 (Ninth Circuit, 2021). [Quotations reproduced as commentary.]

REAL ESTATE & BANKRUPTCY (Preferential Transfer)

REAL ESTATE & BANKRUPTCY (Preferential Transfer)

Whether a non-judicial foreclosure sale, carried out under State law in the 90 days to 1 year before bankruptcy, will be considered a “preferential transfer,” and therefore invalid, will depend upon many factors. The court must hear evidence regarding whether or not the foreclosing creditor received more in the pre-bankruptcy foreclosure sale than it would have received through the bankruptcy. The court cannot say, as a matter of law, that such creditors always receive more in a pre-bankruptcy non-judicial foreclosure than they would have received in the bankruptcy. Therefore, whether a particular sale is barred as a preferential transfer will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

In re: Buckskin Realty Inc., Case No. 1-13-40083-nhl, Adv. Pro. No.: 15-01004-nhl
United States Bankruptcy Court, E.D. New York filed March 26, 2021, interpreting 11 USC Sec. 547 and BFP v. Resolution Trust Corp., 511 U.S. 531 (1994).

 

REAL ESTATE & BANKRUPTCY (Lien Stripping)

REAL ESTATE & BANKRUPTCY (Lien Stripping)

Where debtor received discharge of unsecured junior mortgage in Chapter 7 proceeding, and then filed a Chapter 13, the Court held that the junior mortgage was an unsecured debt, but not uncollectible, and the debtor should be required to make affordable payments on that unsecured debt as part of the debtor’s Chapter 13 plan.[The property was not foreclosed.]
There is no lien stripping (particularly of undersecured or unsecured junior mortgages) in Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

In re Leonidas, Case No. 6:17-bk-19739;(Memorandum Opinion), filed 6/19/2019

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