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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How Long Can I Stay in My Home After a Foreclosure Starts in Connecticut?

     Connecticut is a judicial foreclosure state so a foreclosures action is commenced with the service of a foreclosure summons and complaint on the borrower(s)/homeowner(s).  This means that although you may have had  many conversations with a mortgage lender's collection and/or loss mitigation department in which you have been told you are in a foreclosure this really means you are in pre-foreclosure status until you are actually served with this foreclosure writ. Therefore, the time frame discussed in this post as to the time you have left to stay in your home starts with the actual commencement of the foreclosure action not bank employee statements you are in foreclosure. The time that you have left in your home depends on what actions you take after the service of the foreclosure writ. In Connecticut the foreclosure writ includes an application for foreclosure mediation with a court mediator which is described in more detail in prior posts to this blog. Generally speaking homeowners who reside in 1 up to 4 family homes who are signatories to the note secured by the mortgage being foreclosed are eligible for court mediation. You can apply for mediation either pro se or with the help of an attorney which I recommend if your goal is to obtain a loan modification. The statute governing mediation  provides you with the right to stay in mediation up to eight months and can be extended if the lender agrees or you can prove to the court you have the right to extend based on the current status of your loan modification negotiations with your lender. Foreclosure mediation is one way to extend your stay in your home and may ultimately result in your keeping your home if you receive an acceptable loan modification. At a minimum based on my experience for most clients I have represented whether they receive an acceptable modification or not the mediation process does take eight months and sometimes longer.
      While you are in mediation the foreclosure action is stayed and cannot proceed further so the bank cannot file default motions creating the need to file defensive pleadings. When mediation is terminated for defendants who do not go forward with  loan modifications there is still an opportunity to buy more time to reside in their homes. This also holds true in situations where a defendant does not pursue mediation at the onset of the foreclosure action. As indicated above foreclosure is a judicial process in Connecticut and a defendant has the right file an answer and special defenses to the foreclosure action. Banks are sloppy and makes mistakes at times which lead to facts which support the filing of these defensive pleadings. These pleadings are not necessarily designed to result in a defendant's verdict's at trial which is extremely difficult to do if the action is based on delinquent payments of a validly executed note and mortgage. What these defensive pleadings do provide is more time in your home and the delay of the foreclosure action. On average at a minimum I  have found that these pleadings provide an additional 9 months to a year before the completion of the foreclosure. In some cases I have seen foreclosures delayed years. Of course one caveat to add here is that during this period the debt due continues to accumulate and if there is a deficiency due than in some cases a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing may be needed which can further extend time in your home usually by about 2 months, however, the existence of a deficiency does not mandate a Chapter 7 filing by itself and each case is unique. Especially in cases where there is no other debt issues since I have not seen banks be very aggressive in pursuing deficiencies in this state. This could change and like all of what I have been discussing the help of an experienced foreclosure defense and bankruptcy attorney is critical to properly protect your interests.
     In conclusion, whether using foreclosure mediation and/or defensive pleadings Connecticut homeowners can buy significant time in their homes after the start of a foreclosure action. If your goal is to stay in your home as long as you can you should contact an experienced foreclosure defense attorney to help you accomplish this.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Fair Market Value Exemptions in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

 In  Schwab v. Reilly130 S. Ct. 2652 (2010) the United States Supreme Court made an important ruling effecting the treatment of exemptions for debtors' assets. The debtor in that case valued and exempted under the federal exemptions her business equipment at $10,718.00. Her clear intention was to exempt all of her business equipment to retain her ownership post-bankruptcy. The Chapter 7 trustee did not object to her exemption within the requisite 30 day period. Nevertheless the trustee did file an application with the court to appoint an auctioneer to sell this business equipment to net any proceeds above the exemption amount after fees and costs involved. The bankruptcy court denied the trustee's motion to sell based on the premise the assets were fully exempted., This ruling was upheld by the Third Circuit on appeal. Judge Thomas wrote a majority decision for the Supreme Court which reversed and remanded this decision ruling in part that with a facially valid exemption claimed by the debtor it is too burdensome to require a Chapter 7 trustee to object to the exemption. The court further clarified that a debtor can signal it intends to exempt the entire asset by listing the exempt value as either "fair market value (FMV)" or "100 percent of FMV". One can certainly argue that the Third Circuit's reasoning that the debtor intended to exempt the 100% of FMV by valuing and exempting the equipment assets at $10,718.00 was enough. The Supreme Court has added this extra requirement to make it more than clear when a debtor is exempting the full value of an asset. The result of the subject case is telling since by avoiding an objection to exemption hearing re: valuation of the equipment assets the trustee clearly placed the debtor in a difficult position. One can presume she exempted this business equipment to continue to use it in her business to generate income, The trustee now had the ability to seize this property to sell it. The likely result is that debtor would settle with the trustee and possibly pay even more than what the trustee would recover at auction to maintain possession of this business equipment to keep her business running.
     Therefore, in exempting assets like business equipment where a debtor provides a value that may be subject to question claiming 100% of FMV is a necessity based on ruling in Schwab v. Reilly.