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Chicago Mortgage Loan Servicer AttorneysWith many reports claiming that the COVID-19 pandemic could continue well into 2021—and some reports even suggesting that it could last into 2022—the economic impact is likely to remain substantial and adverse. Illinois alone approximately has more than a 20 percent unemployment rate since the start of the pandemic. All this job loss and financial strife means more foreclosures, mortgage loan modifications, workouts, and other adjustments to mortgages are bound to occur, at least eventually. With echoes of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law this past March still being felt today, mortgage lenders and mortgage servicers might be considering their responsibilities at this time in offering new—or extending prior—COVID-19 forbearance plans for their borrowers. Here is an overview for your reference. 

Mortgage Lender Responsibilities Per the CARES Act, Then and Now

Provided the mortgage being serviced is federally backed, mortgage lenders and servicers are required by law at this time to offer the following forbearance policies to eligible homeowners:

  • The CARES Act enables forbearance of mortgage payments for up to six months in which interest accrues and the payments are only postponed.
  • The lenders have the right to extend the forbearance another six months for a total of one year of a forbearance in mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • During these forbearances, servicers cannot charge fees or interest beyond what would have been provided for with the homeowners’ usual monthly on-time mortgage payments.
  • An important new interpretation of the CARES Act from federal regulators confirms that servicers cannot require repayment of the missed mortgage payments in one lump sum at the end of the forbearance.
  • When the forbearance period ends, the lender will work with the homeowner to devise a loan modification, workout, or other plan that will allow them to pay back the missed payments over time.

Why Expanding COVID-19 Forbearance Policies Might Be a Good Idea

According to the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, nearly 70% of all homeowners have federally-backed loans that qualify for these forbearance policies, which means you as a lender technically are not required by law to offer it to all your borrowers. However, despite this, you might want to consider the expansion of your COVID-19 forbearance policy to all homeowners and not just those with federally backed loans. Reasons to do this include:


Chicago creditors rights attorneyIn general, bankruptcy is an outcome that most creditors want to avoid when dealing with a debtor. If you are an unsecured creditor, the debtor may use bankruptcy discharge to clear their debt while paying you little or none of what they owe. Most consumer debtors file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and the chapter they choose may depend on what they qualify for.

A debtor cannot use Chapter 7 bankruptcy if the bankruptcy court deems that they are capable of repaying their debts. One way that a potential bankruptcy filer can determine whether they qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is through the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Means Test. If the debtor does not pass the test, then Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be their only option.

Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13

Before explaining the Chapter 7 Means Test, it is helpful to understand the difference between the forms of bankruptcy from a creditor’s perspective:


Four Keys to a Strong Guarantee in a Loan ContractA loan contract can have more than one party who is liable for the debt. For instance, a loan may have a guarantee, in which a third party called a guarantor promises to repay the debt in the event that the principal debtor defaults. A guarantor can be an individual, bank, or other financial institution and can agree to put up assets as collateral for the debt. For creditors, a guaranteed debt provides security if lending to someone who has a poor or unproven credit history. However, the guarantor could try to get out of their liability by finding a weakness in the contract. Here are four tips for creating a strong guarantee in your debt contract:

  1. Get the Guarantee in Writing: It may seem obvious, but it is crucial that the guarantee is a written agreement. Courts typically do not recognize oral agreements for guarantees, and even if they did, an oral agreement is an unreliable way to set strict terms for the guarantee.
  2. Use Clear Terms and Conditions in the Contract: The guarantee in the contract should state when the guarantor becomes responsible for the debt and how much they must pay. For instance, you could have an unconditional guarantee that requires the guarantor to pay regardless of the reason for the default or a guarantee that is conditional on actions such as attempting to collect from the principal debtor before collecting from the guarantor. 
  3. Include Terms Giving Consent to Modify the Agreement: One argument the guarantors have used against creditors is that the guarantor was unaware of a modification to the loan agreement that significantly increased their burden if they became liable for the debt. You can protect yourself against this argument by including a section in the contract in which the guarantor consents to pay the debt regardless of modifications.
  4. Check on the Guarantor: Having a guarantor for a debt does you little good if that person has a poor credit history. Do a background check on the guarantor just as you would with the principal debtor. Make sure they have the income or assets to pay if needed and a history of making payments on time.

Contact a Chicago Creditor’s Rights Attorney

When a debtor or guarantor balks at repaying a defaulted debt, you will rely on the strength of your contract and your legal team to protect your financial interests. An Illinois creditor’s rights lawyer at Walinski & Associates, P.C., knows the tactics that debtors use to avoid payment and how to respond. To schedule a consultation, call 312-704-0771.



Illinois Suspends Vehicle Repossession by Auto LendersThe COVID-19 pandemic has affected all areas of commercial lending, including automotive loans. With millions of Americans out of work, consumers may have more difficulty paying off the loan on their vehicle. Auto lenders have ways to handle clients who have fallen behind on loan payments, whether it is modifying the terms of the loan to give the client leeway or pursuing debt collection. However, repossession of the vehicle may not be an option right now, depending on where the client lives. You must examine recent laws and executive orders to ensure that you are not committing a violation when repossessing a vehicle.

Temporary Freeze on Repossession

Since the start of the crisis, states have differed on whether they will continue to allow vehicle repossession when a debtor is unable to make loan payments. Some states have strictly prohibited it, while others are merely recommending a pause on repossessions. In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order that suspended vehicle repossessions for as long as the state’s disaster proclamation is in effect. As of May 29, the disaster proclamation has been extended until June 27. The executive order cited several reasons for suspending vehicle repossessions:

  • Many Illinois residents are facing financial hardship because of the lockdown imposed by the state.
  • Having a vehicle is essential to public safety in order to obtain supplies and travel in the event of a medical emergency.
  • Essential workers rely on their vehicles in order to get to their workplaces.
  • Individual vehicles allow residents to travel while practicing social distancing.

Your Options as a Lender

Illinois’ executive order states that the pause on vehicle repossession does not affect your client’s obligation to continue paying the loan. Once the order is lifted, you may be able to move forward with repossession efforts if that is the stage you are at in the debt collection process. Until then, you can communicate with your clients to make sure they understand the consequences of missing loan payments and decide whether to allow deferments on payments in some cases.


Four Steps Creditors Must Take in Response to BankruptcyThe number of people who have recently become jobless in the U.S. may cause an increase in people who default on their debts. Creditors have several methods of handling a defaulted debt, such as debt collection practices, modifying the debt agreement, or taking the debtor to court. A debtor may try to clear their debts by filing for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy can prevent unsecured creditors from collecting their remaining debt if the bankruptcy filer is allowed to discharge their debts. If your debtor has filed for bankruptcy, there are several steps you must take to have a chance at still receiving the money you are owed:

  1. Honor the Automatic Stay for Now: A bankruptcy notice includes an automatic stay on all debt collection activity. You may have a reason to contest the stay or the bankruptcy, but your immediate reaction should be to stop communicating with the debtor or trying to repossess properties. You can be penalized for knowingly violating the automatic stay.
  2. Promptly File Your Proof of Claim: In order to receive a portion of the bankruptcy assets, you must file a proof of claim that states what the debtor owes you. The bankruptcy notice should give a deadline by which you need to file your proof of claim. It is imperative that you do not miss that deadline.
  3. Take a Closer Look at the Bankruptcy Case: You need to study the details in the bankruptcy claim before the first meeting of creditors. The debtor could be trying to abuse the bankruptcy process by underreporting their debt to you or hiding assets that could be used to repay creditors. You will have the chance to bring up any discrepancies to the bankruptcy trustee during the meeting.
  4. Consider a Request to Lift the Automatic Stay: You can continue debt collection efforts during the bankruptcy by petitioning to lift the automatic stay, but the bankruptcy court is unlikely to grant your request if the debt does not involve a secured property. You can argue that you should be allowed to continue foreclosure on a home or repossession of a vehicle if the debtor does not have enough equity in the property to cover the remaining value of the loan.

Contact a Chicago Creditor’s Rights Lawyer

Whether you are repaid at the end of bankruptcy depends on the type of bankruptcy being filed and your priority as a creditor. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation, secured creditors and priority unsecured creditors are paid before general unsecured creditors. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, unsecured creditors have a better chance of receiving some money during the repayment plan. An Illinois creditor’s rights attorney at Walinski & Associates, P.C., can explain what you are likely to receive from a bankruptcy case. To schedule a consultation, call 312-704-0771.



‘Zombie Foreclosures’ Are Dwindling But Not DeadDuring the Great Recession, so-called “zombie homes” were a common problem for mortgage lenders. Zombie foreclosure is a way of describing a situation where a home is abandoned after the occupants received a foreclosure notice. The number of zombie foreclosures has decreased since the height of the housing market crash. A recent report on foreclosures during the fourth quarter of 2019 found that 3.1 percent were zombie foreclosures, which is down 5.8 percent from the first quarter of 2014. Illinois had the fourth-most zombie foreclosures in the U.S. with 943, which is 4.7 percent of its foreclosures. Abandoned homes are still a problem that can decrease the resale value of the property.

How Zombie Foreclosure Occurs and Why It Is a Problem

When a homeowner receives their initial foreclosure notice, they may decide to abandon the property instead of contesting the foreclosure process. They may believe that they have no hope of paying back the mortgage and that they are better off leaving before the foreclosure is completed. This causes a major problem for mortgage lenders because an unoccupied property will fall into disrepair. In some cases, the previous occupants may have left the home in bad shape.

A zombie home will decrease in value, even if the lender works to maintain its appearance. The lender cannot sell the home until the foreclosure is finished because it is still in the previous occupant’s name. A zombie home will also decrease the property values of other homes in the neighborhood, some of which the lender may be trying to sell.


What Are the Benefits and Risks of Invoice Factoring?Business owners are often receptive to creative ways that they can secure loans from financing companies. Invoice factoring, also known as accounts receivable factoring, is an alternative form of funding that has grown in popularity. Factoring is a collateral-backed loan, with the collateral being the business’s unpaid customer invoices. The lender purchases the invoices and receives payments from the borrower’s customers in order to be reimbursed for the loan. While there are benefits to using factoring to create a loan agreement, creditors should also understand the risks that may be involved.


Factoring gives creditors more flexibility when working with a business client that does not have a strong credit history. From the borrower’s perspective, they are quickly turning their invoices into cash that they can use for immediate expenses. From the lender’s perspective, they are purchasing current customer invoices and could be repaid for the loan in a matter of months, depending on when the invoices are due. If the process goes smoothly, the creditor will have created a successful business relationship with a client that may not have qualified for a loan otherwise.


There is potential for a factoring loan agreement to go wrong, leaving the borrower unable to repay the loan. Most of the risks stem from the fact that the lender must collect money from the borrower’s customers, who may not cooperate for several reasons:


Contesting Bankruptcy Fraud from Holiday ShoppersThe average U.S. consumer takes on more than $1,000 in debt each December – much of it related to holiday shopping and put on credit cards. When it comes time to repay those debts, some consumers struggle to keep up with minimum payments and eventually default on their debts. Debtors who qualify for bankruptcy can put unsecured creditors such as credit card companies in a difficult position because the debtor may be able to discharge all or part of their credit card debt at the end of the bankruptcy. Creditors can stop or limit the bankruptcy process if they can show that the debtor is trying to commit fraud.

Amassing Debt

One way that bankruptcy fraud can occur is when the filer takes on debt that they never intended to repay. For instance, a debtor who intends to file for bankruptcy may use a credit card to purchase gifts for the holidays because they believe that they can discharge the debt later. The credit card company may suspect the debtor’s intention and can file a claim of fraud with the bankruptcy court. If the claim is proven, the court may order that the fraudulent debt is ineligible for discharge or dismiss the case.

Presumption of Fraud

It can be difficult for a creditor to prove that the debtor is committing bankruptcy fraud by including debts that they did not intend to repay. Unless the debtor confesses their intentions, the creditor will rely on circumstantial evidence from which the court can reasonably conclude that the debtor intended to commit fraud. For instance, there may be records of the debtor inquiring about bankruptcy or meeting with an attorney before taking on the debt. U.S. bankruptcy law presumes that some financial transactions by a bankruptcy filer are fraudulent and ineligible for discharge, including:


Using Replevin, Detinue to Repossess VehiclesAs a secured creditor, there may come a point in the debt collection process when you decide that you are best served by repossessing the collateral property. Auto lenders commonly deal with repossessing vehicles when the debtor defaults on their loan and shows no intention of working with the lender to catch up on the missed payments. However, debtors may not cooperate when you try to repossess their vehicle, whether they actively deny your repossession efforts or try to hide the vehicle from you. In these situations, you can force compliance by requesting a replevin or detinue from the court.

What Are Replevin and Detinue?

Replevin and detinue are similar legal actions that can help you recover a property held by a debtor. The main differences are:

  • Replevin allows police to seize property and return it to the creditor and is more generally used when a defendant wrongfully took a property.
  • Detinue orders the defendant to surrender the property to the creditor because they are wrongfully withholding it.

With replevin, you may be able to seize the property after the defendant has been given a five-day notice. With detinue, you often must wait until the end of the case to retrieve the property. With both actions, you must be able to clearly identify the property and prove that you have a superior claim to ownership, which for auto lenders would be proving that the defendant has defaulted on their loan agreement. Along with retrieving the property, you may be able to collect damages from the defendant if there was a cost that was related to them withholding the property. If the property cannot be found, the court will order the defendant to pay you the monetary value of the property.


What Are the Statutes of Limitations for Debts in Illinois? There is no statute of limitations on how long a creditor can attempt to collect an unpaid, but there is a deadline for when they can still use litigation to receive a court judgment against the debtor. Litigation has advantages over other debt collection practices because: The debtor is legally obligated to repay what they owe. Creditors can request methods of enforcing the court order, such as wage garnishment. The mere threat of litigation may be motivation for the debtor to cooperate. If you allow the statute of limitations to expire on a debt, you are left with fewer options for collecting that debt. You must understand how the statute of limitations works to know whether it is too late to file a lawsuit over an outstanding debt. What Is the Statute of Limitations? The number of years you have before the statute of limitations expires is different depending on the state and type of debt. In Illinois, the statute of limitations is: Five years for unwritten debt agreements and open-ended agreements Ten years for written agreements and promissory notes An unwritten agreement could be an oral agreement between two parties on a debt. Credit card accounts are the most common form of open-ended agreement, which allows debtors to continually borrow and repay their debts. Many debts are entered through written agreements, which must state the terms and conditions of the loan. A promissory note, such as a mortgage or student loan, requires the borrower to repay the debt within a specified time frame and often with interest. Illinois’ statute of limitations for written agreements is longer than most other states, while its statute of limitations for unwritten and open-ended agreements is about average. When Does the Statute of Limitations Start? It is important to know that the countdown for the statute of limitations starts when the borrower first defaults on their debt and not when the agreement was first created. You may have entered a written debt agreement 10 years ago, but the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit will not have expired if the borrower stopped making debt payments less than 10 years ago. Keeping an accurate record of debt payments will prove that you have not passed the deadline. Contact a Chicago Creditor’s Rights Lawyer When a borrower defaults on their debt payments, you must decide how you will pursue collection of the debt. If you wish to use litigation, it behooves you to act sooner rather than later. A Chicago creditor’s rights attorney at Walinski & Associates, P.C., can explain how the litigation process works. Schedule a consultation by calling 312-704-0771 today.There is no statute of limitations on how long a creditor can attempt to collect an unpaid debt, but there is a deadline for when they can still use litigation to receive a court judgment against the debtor. Litigation has advantages over other debt collection practices because:

  • The debtor is legally obligated to repay what they owe.
  • Creditors can request methods of enforcing the court order, such as wage garnishment.
  • The mere threat of litigation may be motivation for the debtor to cooperate.

If you allow the statute of limitations to expire on a debt, you are left with fewer options for collecting that debt. You must understand how the statute of limitations works to know whether it is too late to file a lawsuit over an outstanding debt.

What Is the Statute of Limitations?

The number of years you have before the statute of limitations expires is different depending on the state and type of debt. In Illinois, the statute of limitations is:


Four Arguments for Denying Chapter 7 Bankruptcy DischargeThe primary reason that creditors do not want debtors to file for bankruptcy is the possibility of discharging the debt. At the end of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, the court will discharge most of the remaining debts that were not paid from the sale of nonexempt assets. Secured creditors can repossess the collateral property but cannot collect on the loan balance without a reaffirmation agreement. Debts to unsecured creditors may be completely wiped out. Creditors can attempt to deny the discharge of their debts by using an adversary proceeding against the bankruptcy filer. They must prove that the debtor is attempting to defraud them through bankruptcy. There are several reasons why a court may agree to deny the discharge of debts:

  1. Lying During Bankruptcy: A debtor may abuse the bankruptcy process in order to discharge debts that they are capable of paying. A court may deny the discharge of all debts if the debtor lied or withheld information with the intent to defraud the creditors and manipulate the system.
  2. Lying on the Loan Application: A debtor may have entered a loan agreement under false pretenses, such as misrepresenting their income in order to qualify for the loan. The debt is ineligible for discharge because the debtor was attempting to defraud the creditor by incurring debts that they knew they could not repay.
  3. Racking Up Last-Minute Debts: A debtor who intends to file for bankruptcy may think they are being sneaky by making several purchases with their credit card immediately before they file. The court will assume that these debts are nondischargeable if the debtor used a single creditor to purchase at least $725 worth of luxury items within 90 days of filing for bankruptcy. A similar rule exists for cash advances on a credit card. In both instances, the debtor is adding to their debt under the assumption that it will be discharged.
  4. Transferring Nondischargeable Debts: There are certain debts that cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, such as child support, spousal maintenance, unpaid taxes, and student loans. The debtor may think they can work around this by using a credit card to pay a large portion of these debts and then discharging the credit card debt during bankruptcy. Courts do not allow bankruptcy filers to clear their nondischargeable debts by transferring them to a form of debt that is dischargeable.

Contact a Chicago Creditor’s Rights Lawyer

You have only 60 days after the meeting of creditors to object to a discharge of your debt through bankruptcy. A Chicago creditor’s rights attorney at Walinski & Associates, P.C., can explain your options for responding to a bankruptcy filing. To schedule a consultation, call 312-704-0771.



Illinois Law Protects Commercial Loan LendersWhen creating a loan agreement in Illinois, there is a big difference between personal loans and commercial loans. Individuals or spouses take out personal loans in order to pay for family or household expenses – the most common example being home mortgages. Commercial loans are credit agreements made with business owners for the purpose of starting or expanding a business. In Illinois, commercial loans are more favorable to lenders than personal loans because of the Illinois Credit Agreements Act. Thus, making sure to classify a loan as a credit agreement could save you from a lengthy legal battle.

Commercial Loan Rules

The Illinois Credit Agreements Act states that a credit agreement or any revisions to an agreement is valid only if the agreement is in writing and signed by both parties. The law defines credit agreements as not including credit cards or loans for personal, household, or family purposes. The lender and the commercial debtor cannot create an agreement by:

  • Discussing changes to an existing agreement;
  • Reaching an oral agreement; or
  • Sending a letter or email with the terms of the oral agreement.

Debtors try to use oral agreements to defend themselves against lenders who are attempting to collect on a loan or to file a claim against a lender that they accuse of violating their agreement. With credit agreements in Illinois, commercial debtors have no claim or defense based on oral agreements.


Differences Between Debt Consolidation and Debt RestructuringWhen a client is unable to pay a debt, it sometimes makes sense to offer to modify the loan. Though you may lose some money after the modification, it would be less of a loss than if the client filed for bankruptcy and discharged the debt. The modification may also allow you to maintain your relationship with the client. Two forms of modification are debt consolidation and debt restructuring. Though they have some similarities, they are each best suited for certain debtor situations.

Debt Consolidation

With debt consolidation, the debtor enters a new loan agreement that pays for multiple, smaller loans over a longer period of time. Debt consolidation can be attractive to the debtor because:

  • It simplifies payments of multiple loans into one payment;
  • The interest rate on the new loan can be lower than the smaller loans; and
  • The process will likely not hurt the debtor’s credit score.

From the creditor’s perspective, debt consolidation may be preferable to other loan modification options because the debtor is still expected to repay the loan in full. It is an option best suited for clients who are normally in good standing and looking for long-term savings on their debts in exchange for extending the repayment period. It may not help a client who is struggling to make basic payments.


Illinois Reducing Interest Rate, Revival Deadline on Consumer Debt JudgmentsIllinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign a bill that will change the rules for collecting consumer debt after a debt judgment. The bill, which has passed both the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives, would reduce the interest rate charged to outstanding consumer debts. More significantly, the bill would cut by 10 years the amount of time that a creditor has to revive a judgment that has become dormant. Sponsors of the law tout it as a way to protect low-income Illinois consumers from cumbersome debts. Creditors of Illinois debtors may need to work faster to collect on court-ordered debt judgments.


There are two important caveats of the law as it applies to debtors. The changes affect debt judgments only if:

  • They involve consumer debts; and
  • The debt is $25,000 or less.

Consumer debts are debts accrued by individuals for personal, family, and household expenses. Nonconsumer debts are debts from an organization or business or debts that an individual accrues for purposes other than their personal expenses.


Supreme Court Sets Civil Contempt Standard for Creditors in Bankruptcy CasesA recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling established that creditors can be held in civil contempt for violating a bankruptcy discharge order unless there is “fair ground of doubt” as to the violation. A chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge will clear a debtor from having to repay most of their debts incurred before filing for bankruptcy. A discharge does not apply to certain debts, such as student loans or debts incurred due to fraud. Otherwise, a creditor is not allowed to ask a debtor to repay debts from before the discharge order and could be punished for knowingly violating the order. While not a landmark Supreme Court decision, lower courts will likely cite the ruling during disputes between debtors and creditors after a bankruptcy discharge.

Case Details

Taggart v. Lorenzen is an Oregon case involving a business investor who had received a bankruptcy discharge to protect him from repaying his creditors. Litigation continued over the ownership of the debtor’s business interests, and the court ordered the debtor to pay the creditors’ legal fees at the end of the case. The debtor filed for an order of contempt, claiming that the creditors violated the discharge order by trying to collect legal fees. This case became a larger argument about what constitutes a creditor being in civil contempt of a discharge order:

  • The bankruptcy court found the creditors in contempt based on a strict liability standard, which holds that creditors cannot take action after a discharge order without court approval; but
  • An appellate court overturned that ruling and used a subjective standard that creditors are not in contempt as long as they have a good-faith belief that their actions do not violate the discharge order, even if that belief is unreasonable.

The Supreme Court vacated the appellate court ruling, rejecting both sides’ arguments in favor of what it believes to be a more reasonable objective standard. Creditors must have an objective reason to believe that they are allowed to take collection action against a debtor after a discharge order, but requiring creditors to clear all actions with a court is unreasonable.


Collecting Workers' Compensation Claims After BankruptcyWhen can a creditor claim a workers’ compensation award from a debtor who has filed for bankruptcy in Illinois? That question is at the heart of a recent case that is heading to the Illinois Supreme Court. In the case of In re Elena Hernandez, the debtor filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Among her debts were more than $100,000 that she owed to healthcare providers for treating a work-related injury. She claimed a bankruptcy exemption for her $31,000 workers’ compensation settlement. The healthcare creditors contested the exemption, stating that it unreasonably undermines their ability to collect on the debt. Both the bankruptcy court and a circuit court agreed with the creditors, but the appellate court saw enough evidence on both sides of the argument to ask Illinois’ highest court to make a definitive ruling.

Workers’ Compensation and Debt

A workers’ compensation claim is meant to cover the actual cost of an employee’s work-related injury, including:

  • Healthcare provider expenses;
  • Missed pay from time off work; and
  • The loss of earning potential due to disability.

Thus, one of the primary purposes of workers’ compensation is to ensure that healthcare providers are paid for their services. Illinois law requires employers to directly pay providers for all undisputed healthcare bills. Employers may dispute whether an employee’s injury qualifies for workers’ compensation or whether a certain treatment was a necessary expense. Creditors can hold a patient liable for payment when the employer disputes a bill.


Requirements for Creating a Reaffirmation AgreementAfter bankruptcy filers discharge their debts, unsecured creditors may lose the ability to seek or enforce repayment. The debtor can voluntarily repay the creditor in order to keep a property but has no contractual obligation to make continued payments. In some cases, the debtor may choose to reaffirm the debt. The debtor signs a new agreement that requires him or her to repay the debt. As an incentive, the creditor may offer to refinance the debt into terms that are more manageable for the debtor. However, courts will not enforce a reaffirmation agreement unless you met the legal requirements in creating it. You could instead be liable for damages to the debtor if the court rules that the agreement violated the bankruptcy discharge injunction.


You must meet two deadlines in order to file a reaffirmation agreement with a debtor:

  • The agreement must be filed no later than 60 days after the first meeting of creditors unless the bankruptcy court gives you an extension; and
  • The agreement must be filed before the debts are discharged as part of a bankruptcy.

The deadlines mean that you must discuss and complete the reaffirmation agreement while the bankruptcy case is ongoing. Once a debt has been discharged, you cannot create a new agreement that requires payment of the same debt from the same party. Even if the debtor agrees to reaffirm the debt, a court will likely rule that the contract is unenforceable. However, a third party who was not involved in the bankruptcy could agree to take on the debt.


Banker's Options When Debtor Files for BankruptcyA bank must pause its efforts to collect a debt or foreclose on a property if the debtor files for bankruptcy. The automatic stay is one of the most powerful tools that a debtor has during bankruptcy. The stay expires after 30 days, but the debtor can file for an extension. As a bank, your priority when a client files for bankruptcy is to protect yourself and try to recuperate the debts owed to you. There are several actions you should consider.

Freezing Account

The automatic stay prevents you from withdrawing money from a bankruptcy filer’s account in order to offset debt. However, you can freeze your client's bank account in order to:

  • Protect the money from a bankruptcy trustee; or
  • Hold onto the money until you are able to offset it.

The trustee may order you to release the portion of the bank account that will be exempt from the bankruptcy. It may take weeks for the trustee to make this determination, which buys you time to pursue legal action.


Options for Junior Creditors During ForeclosureJunior creditors are at a disadvantage when senior creditors decide to foreclose on a debtor’s mortgage. The senior creditor has priority in the foreclosure sale, and the junior creditor may receive little or no compensation for what the debtor owes it because its debt is often unsecured. A junior creditor can be:

  • A lender that gave a second mortgage to the debtor with the property as collateral; or
  • A party that received a judgment lien against the debtor’s property as the result of winning a lawsuit against the debtor.

A junior creditor can put itself in a position to receive some compensation from a foreclosure by participating in the foreclosure process. It may also file a lawsuit against the debtor to collect money still owed from its lien.

Sale Surplus

A junior creditor may claim the surplus from a foreclosure sale as long as it establishes its lien on the foreclosed property during the process. This requires the junior creditor to:


When Mortgagees Claim They Never Received Foreclosure NoticeA mortgagor can complete a foreclosure and sale of a property, all without hearing a word from the mortgagee who is living at the property. However, the mortgagee may object to the foreclosure sale at the last minute, claiming that he or she never received notice of the foreclosure. This may be a delaying tactic or a desperate attempt to hold onto a property. The mortgagee has the burden of proving that the mortgagor failed to properly serve notice of the foreclosure.

Service Methods

A mortgagor tries to directly serve the foreclosure notice to the mortgagee, who confirms receipt with his or her signature. The mortgagor has alternative methods of service when the mortgagee cannot be found, including:

  • Leaving it with someone who lives with the mortgagee at the property;
  • Mailing it to the last-known address of the mortgagee; or
  • Publishing it in a newspaper that the mortgagee is likely to read.

Leaving a foreclosure notice with another party is called substitute service. The server must record the name of the person being served, a physical description, and his or her relationship to the mortgagee. The mortgagor usually follows up a substitute service by mailing the notice to the mortgagee.

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