Can Filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Stop Foreclosure?

  • By:Rex Daines
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The worst has happened. You’ve fallen behind on your house payments, and the bank has started foreclosure proceedings. First you got the Notice of Default. Now you’ve been served with the Notice of Sale, telling you that the bank has set a date for the sale of your home. What can you do? Should you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to stop the foreclosure?

Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Foreclosure laws differ from state to state and they are very complicated. Whether a Chapter 7 filing is right for you depends on your particular circumstances. However, if you are facing foreclosure, it’s important that you understand at least some of the basics, including the difference between a judicial foreclosure and a nonjudicial foreclosure, and:

  • how much time you have to respond to the notices,
  • what your rights are and what laws protect you in foreclosure, and
  • what happens afterwards (for example, whether you’ll be liable for a deficiency judgment).

Filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can temporarily stop the sale of your home (because of the “automatic stay”) but that does not mean it will ultimately save your home from foreclosure. Whether a Chapter 7 is the right option for you is something that you should discuss with a bankruptcy attorney. Here at OlsenDaines, our bankruptcy attorneys know the options and care about the outcome. That’s why we offer free consultations, so we can sit down with you and help you decide what is the best approach for you and your family.

While a Chapter 7 will give you the benefit of the automatic stay, bringing the foreclosure to a halt until discharge or the stay is lifted, unlike a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it will not allow you to catch up on missed mortgage payments. That’s because a Chapter 7 is a liquidation bankruptcy designed to discharge (wipe out) unsecured personal debts (e.g., credit card debt and medical bills).

Chapter 7 Will Erase Personal Liability on the Note, But it Won’t Eliminate the Lien.

When you took your loan from the bank, you signed a Promissory Note (“Note”) agreeing to repay the money. And you secured that promise with a Deed Of Trust (“Deed”), creating a lien on your property. Chapter 7 will wipe out the amount you still owe on the Note, but it won’t wipe out the mortgage lien. That means that if you are behind in your payments on your mortgage, your lender can foreclose on your property. It also means that the lender can continue a foreclosure that was delayed by your bankruptcy once you are discharged or a relief from the automatic stay (“relief from stay”) is granted. The same thing applies to other liens on the property; like homeowner association liens, or condominium liens.

No Deficiency.

On the other hand, the lender cannot get a deficiency judgment against you after a nonjudicial foreclosure. (A deficiency is the difference between the amount you owe on the loan and what the house sells for at the nonjudicial foreclosure sale.) In many states, absent a bankruptcy, the lender can come after the homeowner for this amount. Oregon laws prevent a lender from getting a deficiency judgment after a nonjudicial foreclosure, a judicial foreclosure of a residential trust deed, or a short sale (if certain conditions are met). But Oregon does not have laws about deficiency judgments where a deed is given in lieu of foreclosure (“deed in lieu”). That means you need to be careful if you accept a deed in lieu of foreclosure, because the specific language of the deed in lieu negotiated between the borrower and the bank will govern whether or not the lender can seek a deficiency.

Talk to a Lawyer!

Losing your home to foreclosure is stressful and can be devastating. The foreclosure laws are complex and confusing. If you are facing foreclosure or struggling with debt, take advantage of our free consultation and talk to one of our experienced Oregon or Washington bankruptcy attorneys. We can help you decide what course is best for you and your family. Call us at 1-800-682-9568 today!

Posted in: Bankruptcy, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

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