Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Three Strikes and Your (Stay's) Out: The Consequences of Serial Bankruptcy Filings


Many clients have contacted us regarding serial bankruptcy filers-people who filed for bankruptcy two or more times. Since 1984, Congress has been attempting to deal with debtors who took advantage of the automatic stay while making few or no payments to their creditors. This month, we’ll look at how the Bankruptcy Abuse and Creditor Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA) enhanced penalties for serial filers.

Penalties Affecting the Automatic Stay

  1. Under Section 362(c)(3) of the Bankruptcy Code, if you filed bankruptcy under chapter 7, 11 or 13 and then file another bankruptcy under any chapter of the Code within one year of the dismissal of the first case, there is a presumption that you filed the second case in bad faith, and the automatic stay will expire after only 30 days.


  2. Under § 362(c)(4)(A)(i) of the Bankruptcy Code, if you filed two or more bankruptcies in the previous year, and then file a third bankruptcy, the same presumption of bad faith exists, and the automatic stay will not take effect at all upon the third filing (the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” rule). This limitation does not apply to a chapter 11 or chapter 13 case filed after the dismissal of a chapter 7 case for abuse under 11 U.S.C. § 707(b). You may file a motion with the court and ask for the automatic stay to be imposed, but you must present clear and convincing evidence that you filed the most recent bankruptcy in good faith.


  3. Under § 362(c)(4)(D)(ii) of the Bankruptcy Code, if a creditor filed a motion for relief from stay in the prior case that was pending or had been resolved by terminating or limiting the stay, the new case is presumptively not in good faith as to that creditor. Under Section 9011 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, the Court may impose sanctions against the debtor or the debtor’s attorney for bad faith filings.


  4. Under § 362(d)(4) of the Bankruptcy Code, on request of a party in interest and after notice and a hearing, the Court shall grant relief from the stay by terminating, annulling, modifying, or conditioning the stay with respect to a stay of an act against real property by a creditor whose claim is secured by an interest in the real property, if the Court finds that the filing of the petition was part of a scheme to delay, hinder, and defraud creditors that involved multiple bankruptcy filings affecting the real property.


  5. Penalties Affecting Discharge

    Although the Bankruptcy Code does not per se prohibit serial filings, it does condition the ability to obtain a discharge based on a subsequent filing within certain time limits, as discussed below.

    Successive chapter 7 cases: Under § 727(a)(8) of the Bankruptcy Code, if you received your first discharge under a chapter 7, you cannot receive a second discharge in any chapter 7 case that is filed within eight years from the date that the first case was filed.

    A chapter 13 case and a subsequent chapter 7 case: Under § 727(a)(9) of the Bankruptcy Code, if your first discharge was granted under chapter 13, you cannot receive a discharge under any chapter 7 case that is filed within six years from the date that the chapter 13 was filed, unless payments under the plan in such case totaled at least 100 percent of the allowed unsecured claims in such case; or 70 percent of such claims; and the plan was proposed by the debtor in good faith, and was the debtor’s best effort.

    A chapter 7 case and a subsequent chapter 11 or chapter 13 case: Under § 1328(f)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code, if your first discharge was granted under chapter 7, you cannot receive a discharge under any chapter 11 or chapter 13 case that is filed within four years from the date that the chapter 7 was filed.

    Successive chapter 13 cases: Under § 1328(f)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code, if you received your first discharge under chapter 13, you cannot receive a second discharge in any chapter 13 case that is filed within two years from the date that the first case was filed.

    If you’ve previously filed for bankruptcy and are contemplating filing again, or if you’re a creditor with a claim against a serial filer, please contact Jim Shenwick.

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