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Repeat Filings: How Often Can You file, or Re-File, Bankruptcy?

 How Often Can You File Bankruptcy?

If you have filed for bankruptcy before and received a discharge then the bankruptcy code specifies when you can file bankruptcy again and obtain a discharge. If you did not get a discharge in your previous bankruptcy case then you can file for bankruptcy again without consideration of the time limits described below. You can file for bankruptcy twice or even three times, even if you have received a discharge. The key is that you will often have to wait a certain period after you have filed and have received a discharge, to file for bankruptcy again and get a full discharge. If you file for bankruptcy again prior the the time limits, then you will not be entitled to a discharge, and your remaining debts will survive the bankruptcy.

Can I File for Bankruptcy Twice?

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy – If you have previously filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and received a discharge in your previous case then you can file for bankruptcy again and you can be entitled to another discharge in the following situations:

  • Chapter 7 Bankruptcy– If you need to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy after you have filed a previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy and received a discharge, then you need to wait 8 years from the date you filed your previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you file prior to the 8 years, then you will be denied a discharge. If you are denied a discharge, then you will still be legally responsible for your debts. You start to count the 8 years from the date you filed your previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you filed your previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy in  July of 2000, then you are eligible to file again and get a discharge in July 2008.
  • Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – If you need to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy after your have obtained a discharge in a previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy then you will need to wait 4 years to obtain a complete discharge. In order to discharge your credit card debts, medical bills and personal loans you need to wait 4 years from the date you filed your Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you file within 4 years of your previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy then your unsecured debts will not be discharged. This time limit only applies if you obtained a discharge in your previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The 4 year period begins to run from the date you filed your previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This means that if you filed in February of 2000, then  you would be eligible for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy discharge in February of 2004.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – If you have previously filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and you received a discharge in your previous Chapter 13 bankruptcy then there are time limits for filing another Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You can file for bankruptcy again, but there are time limits in order for you to obtain a full discharge of your debts.

  • Chapter 7 Bankruptcy – If you received a discharge in your previous Chapter 13 bankruptcy and you need to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy then you will need to wait 6 years from the date of filing your Chapter 13 bankruptcy to receive a full discharge. You can obtain a full discharge of your debts in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, even if you file within 6 years, but you must have paid your unsecured creditors 70% or more during your previous Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you did not pay your unsecured creditors at least 70% during your previous Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy within 6 years of filing Chapter 13, then you will not be entitled to a discharge. You must wait at least 6 years from the date of filing your previous Chapter 13 bankruptcy, to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and receive a discharge (unless the exception applies).
  • Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – If you have received a discharge in a previous Chapter 13 bankruptcy and need to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy again, then you need to wait at least 2 years from the date of filing of your previous Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you file within 2 years of filing your Chapter 13 bankruptcy then you will not be entitled to a discharge in your new bankruptcy case.

It is important that you understand whether your previous bankruptcy affects your ability to obtain a complete discharge of your debts in your new bankruptcy case. Make sure you inform any bankruptcy attorney of your previous bankruptcy case, so that they can assess whether you can file for bankruptcy and obtain a full discharge of your debts.

If you’re still not sure if you qualify for another bankruptcy, please contact our office for a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.

Brian Cahn, senior partner with Perrotta, Cahn & Associates

Perrotta, Cahn & Associates represents clients throughout Georgia and the Southeastern United States.  We have offices conveniently located throughout Georgia.  To schedule a free consultation with a lawyer at our firm, call us toll-free at 866-382-8900 or visit us online at www.northgabankruptcy.com.

We have offices in: Cartersville, Calhoun, Dalton and Dallas

Serving clients in: Bartow, Floyd, Paulding, Cherokee, Polk, Whitfield, Douglas, Cobb, Fulton, Chatham, and all of Northwest Georgia.

 

Rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy

A bankruptcy discharge is the formal order entered at the successful completion of the case.  The discharge is your ticket out of bankruptcy and the beginning of a fresh financial start.

Building and maintaining good credit after bankruptcy is critical to a fresh start. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate on credit cards, mortgages and auto loans.

No sooner than 4-months after receiving your discharge, but no later than 9-months after discharge, your first step should be to secure a copy of your credit report to see where you stand. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, and you can get it easily by going to www.annualcreditreport.com or calling 1-877-322-8228.   Beware of other web sites that sound “free,” because they probably require you pay a fee or enroll in a monitoring service at a cost.  The only service that I’m aware of that’s absolutely free (no strings attached) is www.annualcreditreport.com.

Once you get your report, check it for accuracy: you will be surprised how often mistakes show up.  The bankruptcy case should say “Discharged” (not “Dismissed”).  Each account that was discharged should say “Discharged in Bankruptcy.”  Conversely, any account that was reaffirmed should say “Account in Good Standing” if you’re current.  Verify that each creditor listed is actually one you either use or have used in the past, and dispute any errors – including old or outdated addresses.

Tips to rebuilding and maintaining good credit

  • Open a checking or savings account. Having a financial history will help you secure a loan.
  • Pay your reaffirmed or post-bankruptcy bills on time; take advantage of auto-pay to avoid late-fees.
  • Keep balances as low as possible on “revolving credit” (i.e., credit cards).
  • When possible, pay off debt instead of transferring it to low-interest rate cards.
  • Don’t open lines of credit you don’t need.
  • Protecting your credit from identity theft is another pro-active way of maintaining good credit; if your identity is stolen and fraudulent charges appear, it will take some time to straighten it all out.

Tips on protecting your credit

  • Guard your mail from theft by shredding it before discarding it – especially mail containing personal information, including charge receipts, credit offers and applications, insurance forms, doctor’s statements, discarded bank checks and statements, and expired credit cards.
  • Be protective of your personal information.
  • Be cautious when giving out your credit card number, address, or other personal information. When possible, only share this information with reputable organizations.
  • Never carry your Social Security card. Leave it in a secure place at home or in a safe deposit box if you have one.
  • Use secure online purchases (https://) whenever possible, and look for graphic images of a lock and key at the bottom corner of your browser or the words Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).
  • Avoid using your card as identification. Thieves can use this information to assume your identity and open bank accounts, make purchases – even get a job or apartment using your identity. Only use your credit card at recognized and reputable merchants.
  • If you suspect fraud, contact the bank that issued your card and have them put a “credit freeze” on your account. A credit freeze will flag your account and make it difficult for would-be-thieves to open a new line of credit under your name.

Tips if you are a victim of identity theft and fraud

  • If you suspect fraud, the first thing to do is place a Fraud Alert on your credit file. This alert will stay in place for 90 days and will require creditors to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.
  • If you have already been a victim of fraud, fill out an Identity Complaint Form with the FTC and have them place an extended fraud alert on your credit file which requires all creditors to actually speak with you before issuing credit. The extended fraud alert stays on your file for 7 years.
  • Repairing your credit will take time. It’s similar to building your credit from scratch – but more challenging since the blemishes from the past will be on your file for a while.

Tips on improving or repairing your credit

  • Pay your bills on time. The length of time you’ve paid your bills timely impacts your credit score.
  • Get current on all your accounts. If you are behind, creditors will send your accounts to collectors and this will negatively impact your credit file.
  • If you fall behind on payments, contact the creditors or see a credit counselor and let them know your situation. This will give you a chance to work something out with the creditors – possibly delaying reports of delinquencies to the credit agencies.
  • Get your credit report a few times a year to monitor your progress. Although it takes time to raise those scores, watching them rise should serve as motivation to reinforce these new habits.

Disputing Errors on your Credit Report

If your credit report does not accurately reflect accounts discharged in bankruptcy, or other material information, it’s important to send a dispute letter to all 3 bureaus ASAP.   Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the credit bureau is required by law to correct any disputed items within 30-days.  Here’s a sample dispute letter:

Date Your Name Your Address Your City, State, Zip CodeComplaint Department Name of Credit Bureau Address City, State, Zip Code

Dear Sir or Madam:I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. The items I dispute also are encircled on the attached copy of the report I received.This item (identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.) is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be deleted (or request another specific change) to correct the information.Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records, court documents) supporting my position. Please investigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Your name

Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing)

Brian Cahn, senior partner with Perrotta, Cahn and Prieto, P.C.

Perrotta, Cahn & Prieto represents clients throughout Georgia and the Southeastern United States.  We have offices conveniently located throughout Georgia.  To schedule a free consultation with a lawyer at our firm, call us toll-free at 866-382-8900 or visit us online at www.northgabankruptcy.com.

We have offices in: Cartersville, Calhoun, Dalton, Atlanta and Dallas

Serving clients in: Bartow, Floyd, Paulding, Cherokee, Polk, Whitfield, Douglas, Cobb, Fulton, Chatham, and all of Northwest Georgia.

Carterville Bankruptcy Lawyer: 523(a)(16) Conundrum – Strategies to minimize clients’ exposure for post-petition homeowners association (“HOA”) dues

In recent months, many chapter 7 debtors and their attorneys have struggled with the harsh consequences of newly-enacted 11 U.S.C.  523(a)(16), which excepts from a debtor’s discharge, any post-petition “fee of assessment that becomes due and payable” to a homeowners association (“HOA”), as long as the debtor maintains a “legal, equitable, or possessory ownership interest” in the subject property.

With the unprecedented volume of foreclosures associated with the nationwide mortgage crisis, mortgage lenders frequently take months, or even years, to finalize foreclosure sales.  Since the debtor technically maintains a legal or equitable ownership interest in the property (even in the absence of a possessory interest), the debtor could remain liable for HOA assessments accruing for many months, or even years after leaving the property while the lender finalizes the foreclosure process.

Such liability, through no fault of the debtor, frustrates the debtor’s good-faith effort to secure a fresh financial start.  Until the Bankruptcy Code is corrected to address this glaring injustice, debtors and their attorneys must be proactive to mitigate the harsh consequences.  What are the options?

One option is to simply wait until after the foreclosure is concluded before filing the chapter 7 bankruptcy.  In practice, however, waiting months or years to file chapter 7 is simply not feasible.

Perhaps the best option (being used by my office and many of my peers) is for the debtor to vacate the property upon filing, and at the same time, execute and record a deed transferring ownership back to the mortgage lender, or even the HOA.  Although this option is not perfect, it is – in my opinion – the best way to protect chapter 7 debtors from the harsh (perhaps unintended) consequences of § 523(a)(16).

Brian Cahn, senior partner with Perrotta, Cahn and Prieto, P.C.

Perrotta, Cahn & Prieto represents clients throughout Georgia and the Southeastern United States.  We have offices conveniently located throughout Georgia.  To schedule a free consultation with a lawyer at our firm, call us toll-free at 866-382-8900 or visit us online at www.northgabankruptcy.com.

We have offices in: Cartersville, Calhoun, Dalton, Atlanta and Dallas

Serving clients in: Bartow, Floyd, Paulding, Cherokee, Polk, Whitfield, Douglas, Cobb, Fulton, Chatham, and all of Northwest Georgia.