If you want to hold onto your home, Chapter 13 gives you many extraordinary advantages.
So many good things come with the Chapter 13 package that we need to get right to it.
To Keep Your Home…
A. If you are current on your mortgage: In most situations you will be allowed to keep making payments directly to your mortgage holder. The bankruptcy system puts a high priority on home mortgages, so almost always your Chapter 13 plan will be structured to pay your mortgage ahead of most other creditors.
B. If you are behind on your mortgage: You will likely have the whole 3-to-5-year length of your Chapter 13 case to catch up on your missed payments. Although theoretically you want to finish your case sooner than later, from a practical perspective the longer you have to catch up the less it will cost each month to do so. In fact because of this, homeowners often intentionally stay in their cases longer than their income requires just to make it easier on their monthly budget.
C. If you have a second mortgage: We may be able to “strip” that mortgage off your house, so that you won’t have to pay it. This is possible only if the home is worth no more than the balance owed on the first mortgage. And this can only be done in Chapter 13, not Chapter 7. Note that when the second (or third) mortgage is stripped off your title, you will be that much closer to eventually building some equity in your home
D. If you are behind on homeowner association dues: These special creditors usually have very aggressive collection methods available to them. But Chapter 13 can stop them and keep them at bay while you get current through payments earmarked to them through your plan.
E. If you are behind on your property taxes: Same thing. The county or other property tax agency is put on hold with any tax foreclosure or other collection procedures while the back taxes are paid through your Chapter 13 plan. Your mortgage company also sees that you are taking care of this responsibility and can monitor your performance in doing so.
F. If you have a judgment lien on your home: In many circumstances, judgment liens attached to your home can be “voided”—the lien undone and the underlying debt written off. This can happen if the amount of equity that you have in your home, WITHOUT accounting for the judgment lien, is no more than the amount of your homestead exemption. The debt itself is treated as an unsecured debt and is paid whatever percentage all your unsecured creditors receive through your Chapter 13 plan. Usually this does not increase how much you end up paying to the creditors, but rather just shifts how much each of your creditors gets paid (if anything at all).
G. If you have an income tax lien: Chapter 7 does not have an effective way of dealing with an income tax secured through a tax lien. Chapter 13 does. Whether the tax lien is on a tax which can or cannot be discharged, your Chapter 13 plan will arrange to pay only those taxes that must be paid during the life of your case. So at the end of your case all necessary taxes will have been paid in full and the tax lien will be released.
H. If you have a child or spousal support lien: Another situation where Chapter 7 cannot help, under Chapter 13 the ex-spouse or support enforcement agency would be stopped from enforcing the lien, you’d have the length of your case to pay the arrearage, so that by the end of the case you would be current and any lien would be released.
These are the main special powers that Chapter 13 provides to help you keep your home. Often these are used in combination, to fight back at each of the ways your home is being attacked. Whether you just need to use one or two or a bunch of them, these powers make keeping your home much more likely to actually happen.