There is light at the end of the tunnel. The first step is to begin rebuilding a good credit record.
Rebuilding Your Credit After Bankruptcy
1. Get a copy of your credit report at least once a year.
2. check it for accuracy.
3. Supplement the report with the reasons that you filed for bankruptcy.
4. Make sure that your credit record reflects that your debts were "discharged" and not simply written off.
5. Start Saving: Put a portion of your funds aside in a bank account. This will be important later on in re-establishing credit.
6. Apply for a Credit Card: Start with secured credit cards. There are a number of them available and the book describes your best choices.
7. Make sure that the credit card payments are reported on your credit history.
8. Apply for gasoline cards. These are the easiest to get.
9. In some cases, you may want to consider paying a discharged debt.
The best news is even after bankruptcy you may be able to qualify for a home mortgage. In such a case it would be best to begin with lenders specializing in various credit challenged situations. These can help you build your credit to a point of loan qualification .
For an accurate and reliable credit overview of your credit status, get a copy of your credit report from one of the three major credit reporting agencies. TransUnion, Equifax, and/or Experian.
Frequently Asked Questions After Bankruptcy
How long may bankruptcy information be included in my credit report?
Both the Bankruptcy Code and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (which regulates what a consumer reporting agency may include in your credit report) are Federal law, so the same rules apply to all states.
A consumer credit report may include information on a Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy for 10 years from the commencement of the case. We have been advised that at least one major consumer credit reporting agency removes information about Chapter 13 after only 7 years although it is not legally required to do so.
Most other credit information may be reported for 7 years, except for civil suits, civil judgments, and arrest records can be reported for at least seven years, but may be reported longer if the governing statute of limitations is longer. For example, in Arizona, a court judgment is effective for 5 years. However, it may be renewed at the end of that time for another 5 year period, and again after that period. As a result, a renewed civil judgment could be reported for as long as it is effective.
The restriction on reporting any credit information do not apply to reports for:
Can you still get a Federal guaranteed student educational loan after you have filed bankruptcy?
Unlike most credit, the granting of government guaranteed educational loans is not based upon credit history or income. They are instead extended if you meet the statutory and administrative criteria. Although default on an existing educational loan may effect your ability to get a subsequent loan, the filing of a bankruptcy in itself should not. As a matter of fact, the government is restricted from discriminating against those who have filed bankruptcy.
How long after filing bankruptcy will I be able to get a loan to buy a house? Will the interest be "sky high"? What are some of the other credit effects of filing bankruptcy?
The short answer to your question is that you may be able to finance the purchase a home two years after you have gotten your discharge in bankruptcy, but you may qualify as early as one year after filing Chapter 13, or one year after discharge in Chapter 7.
Since a large proportion of home loans depend on FHA or VA loan guarantees, your ability to qualify for those guarantees may determine when you are able to obtain a home loan.
FHA will insure mortgages to individuals who have filed Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy two years after the discharge if "the borrower has re-established good credit (or has chosen not to incur new credit obligations), and has demonstrated an ability to manage financial affairs."
To obtain a loan within one year after the discharge, the borrower must show that "the bankruptcy was caused by extenuating circumstances beyond his or her control and has since exhibited an ability to manage financial affairs and the borrower's current situation is such that the events leading to the bankruptcy are not likely to recur."
FHA regulations also specify that a borrower still in a Chapter 13 debt adjustment who has satisfactorily completed one year of plan payments and gets court approval of the transaction. [U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Office of Housing, Handbook No.: 4155.1 REV-4 CHG-1, September 28, 1995. Chapter 2-3, E]
VA has similar regulations. The VA handbook for lenders includes provisions that "If the bankruptcy was discharged more than 2 years ago, it may be disregarded."
If the discharge was between 1 and 2 years, the guarantee may still be granted if the applicant or spouse has obtained consumer items on credit subsequent to the bankruptcy and has satisfactorily made the payments over a continued period and the bankruptcy was caused by circumstances beyond the control of the applicant or spouse such as unemployment, prolonged strikes, medical bills not covered by insurance, etc.
VA regulations allow granting of the loan guarantee to a person in a Chapter 13 when the plan payments are finished satisfactorily, or after 12 months payments and the Trustee or the Bankruptcy Judge approves of the new credit. [Veterans Benefits Administration VA Pamphlet 26-7, Change 34, November 13, 1997]
If you obtain home loan financing with a loan guarantee, the loan rate should be based on the guarantee status of the loan. As a result, I would not expect that the rate would be affected by the bankruptcy.
Other effects of bankruptcy on credit are difficult to assess. Credit is extended by individual lenders, and is not generally regulated by law. Lenders do not generally make their criteria public. We do know that there are two factors which are important to creditors in extending credit.
I filed Bankruptcy and a creditor or collection agency keeps sending me threatening letters ?
I filed Bankruptcy and its showing up on my spouse's (or father's, son's, sister's) CREDIT REPORT, Why and What do I do ?
I filed Bankruptcy and one of my CREDITORS KEEPS CALLING?
My Mortgage Company (or car finance company) Stopped sending me monthly statements?
What is a REAFFIRMATION AGREEMENT (my car finance company or mortgage company says I should have signed one ?
When will I get my DISCHARGE ORDER? I want to finance a car and the car salesman said it would not be a problem if I have my Bankruptcy Discharge?
I filed Chapter 7 about six months ago and said I wanted to keep my car that I was financing. Today they repossessed it, what do I do?
This is by far the most common call I get from past clients. My usual response is "I don't do credit reports!" What I do is asst my client in getting a discharge of their debts. The goal in filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is to get a DISCHARGE of your debts. This is what you hire my office to help you get. It is a Court Order (signed by a United States Bankruptcy Judge) and mailed by the Bankruptcy Court to all the creditors listed on your petition. It ORDERS your creditors to cease any action to collect their debt from you, FOREVER. Within a few weeks of your filing, most creditors will have reported your filing to the main credit reporting agencies and most debts will have a notation such as "discharged in Bankruptcy Chapter 7". Some debts won't have such a notation and may show up as still being owed despite having been listed on your petition. This is nothing to be alarmed about. You really don't need to do anything, because the creditor CANNOT COLLECT the debt. I get calls every day from past clients at a car dealership or mortgage broker who has pulled up their credit report and out of the 30 accounts listed at the time my client filed their bankruptcy, 2 of them are still showing as outstanding obligations. THEY ARE NOT OWED, THEY ARE DISCHARGED, whether or not listed in the bankruptcy petition. Some creditors choose to notify the credit reporting agency of the bankruptcy filing, others did not. No big deal, all debts that are dischargeable (i.e. not a student loan, tax or child support) are discharged! If it really bothers you, contact the credit reporting agency and ask for a correction. Credit Repair
This happens in just about every case I file. A creditor or a collection agency keeps mailing the same nasty dunning letter to my client month after month, despite having been listed on the Bankruptcy Matrix (mailing list). The first thing you should do is not worry. 99 times out of 100, the letter you are getting is being spit-out every month by a computer and being mailed to you in hopes that you send some money. The creditors you listed in your Bankruptcy petition were all mailed a Notice of Commencement of Bankruptcy shortly after your case was filed. Some of these Notices were sent to the creditor after they had already sent or sold the debt to a collection agency who has no idea you filed Bankruptcy, others were sent to the creditors corporate offices in South Dakota and there collections office in Pennsylvania has no record in their computer that you filed. Let them know you filed! Remember, your creditor or collection agency wants to know about your Bankruptcy and normally will not continue to try to collect a debt in violation of the automatic stay of the Bankruptcy Code. Usually they are just making an honest mistake and will correct their records as soon as you let them know. Send them a copy of your Bankruptcy Notice or your Discharge. In the rare case that a creditor continues to harass you in willful violation of the Bankruptcy Stay or Discharge, come into my office immediately.
This situation most commonly happens if a person has a relative (or friend) who cosigned a debt. Remember what Co-sign means-you and the other person (both are co-signers) are equally liable for the debt, BOTH are responsible. When one party files a Bankruptcy, the other person who signed is still just as liable as before. It doesn't mean that the creditor will now all of a sudden go after this person, the creditor could have before, nothing has changed. The filing of a Bankruptcy means the creditor cannot try to collect the debt from the person who filed, the cosigner is still responsible or liable. If you are concerned about filing an wish to protect a co-signer, a Chapter 13 repayment plan will prevent the creditor from collecting from the co-signer as long as you are paying the creditor's debt in full. As far as the co-signer's credit report showing a Bankruptcy it is most likely showing only the co-signed creditor's debt (e.g. Ford Motor Credit-included in Bankruptcy) because this person co-signed for someone joint on the account (you) who has filed. The credit report does not indicate that this person filed a Bankruptcy case themselves, (unless of course they have). This is really nothing to be concerned about. Credit Repair Remember, the Credit Reporting Agencies are allowed to report true and accurate information concerning individual's credit history. To dispute the accuracy of such information with the agencies go to my link.
I get this question every day. The first thing I ask my client is, "Did you tell the creditor or collection agent that you have filed Bankruptcy?" NO, I DID NOT THINK OF THAT! is the usual response I get. Let's use some logic here. Remember, 99.9% of creditors will leave you alone once they know you have filed Bankruptcy. If they don't know you have filed, let them know, ask them who they are and where they are calling from. If they know they are prohibited from collecting from you they will not waste their time. They will be happy to close your file once they get your Bankruptcy information. Give them your Bankruptcy Case Number (located in the upper right hand corner of your Notice of Commencement of Bankruptcy or your Discharge Order. Let them know you filed! Remember, your creditor or collection agency wants to know about your Bankruptcy and normally will not continue to try to collect a debt in violation of the automatic stay of the Bankruptcy Code. Usually they are just making an honest mistake and will correct their records as soon as you let them know. Send them a copy of your Bankruptcy Notice or your Discharge. In the rare case that a creditor continues to harass you in willful violation of the Bankruptcy Stay or Discharge, come into my office immediately.
Each creditor you have (including those you wish to continue to pay and keep-such as your mortgage company or car finance company) must be listed in your Bankruptcy petition-after all they are a creditor of yours and by law are required to be listed and to be mailed Notice of the Bankruptcy. Just like any other creditor, they are automatically stayed or stopped (prohibited) from contacting you to request or demand payment, this includes sending you your monthly billing statement (or reminder). They may still give you information about your account if you call them-you can call them, they can't call you asking for payment. If you wish to keep the security for the debt (i.e. the house or car), you should continue to send in your monthly payment as usual. Typically, after a while, the mortgage or other finance company will resume the normal billing cycle with statements. You may also ask them in writing to resume the monthly billing statements to you. Occasionally, the creditor will want you to sign a reaffirmation agreement which is a contract that you sign after you file a Chapter 7 that legally binds you to the original terms of the contract (usually) and will survive your Bankruptcy as if you had never filed (i.e. you can be sued, garnished etc. if you default on your reaffirmation). The Bankruptcy Court discourages multiple reaffirmation agreements signed after filing a Chapter 7 case because many a debtor have had to file another Bankruptcy (such as a Chapter 13 reorganization or repayment plan) after signing a reaffirmation agreement. Remember, a reaffirmation puts you back on the hook, the creditor wants you to sign it. You don't have to sign it, you can normally just continue to pay as usual.
Occasionally, the creditor will want you (and me if I represented you as your attorney in Chapter 7) to sign a reaffirmation agreement which is a contract that you sign after you file a Chapter 7 that legally binds you to the original terms of the contract (usually) and will survive your Bankruptcy as if you had never filed (i.e. you can be sued, garnished etc. if you default on your reaffirmation). The Bankruptcy Court discourages multiple reaffirmation agreements signed after filing a Chapter 7 case because many a debtor have had to file another Bankruptcy (such as a Chapter 13 reorganization or repayment plan) after signing a reaffirmation agreement. Remember, a reaffirmation puts you back on the hook, the creditor wants you to sign it. You don't have to sign it, you can normally just continue to pay as usual. Think for a minute why the creditor wants you to sign the reaffirmation agreement... because it protects them-it puts you back on the hook as if you have never filed a Bankruptcy. Does this mean I never sign them? No, sometimes a client will want to keep a small line of credit with a credit union they have been with for year and who has been the only source of credit in past tough times. Sometimes a client will want to keep a small department store credit card and the creditor is offering to let them keep it. Sometimes a recent secured purchase such as a car or furniture may justify the signing of a reaffirmation agreement. It is my standard practice to make sure you completely understand your rights and responsibilities regarding a reaffirmation agreement before signing and I usually will discourage it unless I feel it is in your best interest(s). Usually you are better off not signing and continuing to pay for merchandise or secured property you wish to keep. Remember you can continue to pay whoever you want after filing your Bankruptcy, you just can't be forced to pay if it has been discharged. I will advise you further should a creditor want a reaffirmation.
Your DISCHARGE will come in the mail, usually 90 to 120 days after you went to your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors (also called a .341 Hearing) which took place about one month after your case was filed with the Court. The US Bankruptcy Court mails out the Discharge letters from a central mailing location. Please do not call the Detroit Bankruptcy Court Clerk unless it has been quite some time since your filing. If you lost, misplaced or otherwise cannot locate a DISCHARGE that was mailed out (and if I have a copy that means one was mailed to the address on your petition or the last address given to the Trustee at the meeting of creditors), my office may be able to locate a copy for you for a nominal charge which must be mailed up-front to my office with a request containing your name, year of filing and address (you wish the DISCHARGE mailed to.) Call my office for more details at 888-4walter or 313-963-4656.
Know this, your vehicle was not repossessed because you did not sign a reaffirmation agreement. 99 times out of 100, the reason the car finance company repossessed the vehicle was because you were behind in payments, the other 1 time is because you failed to maintain full coverage insurance as required by contract (the car finance company was worried the vehicle may be stolen or totaled in an accident-and your insurance company informed them that your insurance had lapsed). OK so the vehicle has been repossessed, now what. First, was it a lease or a purchase? Second, was the debt reaffirmed during your bankruptcy? If the debt was not reaffirmed, you will not owe a balance after the vehicle is sold at an auction, if you did reaffirm, you will be liable to the finance company for any resulting deficiency after the car is sold at the auction because you reaffirmed the debt during your bankruptcy.
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We are a Federally Designated Debt Relief Agency and Bankruptcy Lawyers who help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code. We do not retain clients on the strength of advertising material alone but only after following our own engagement procedures based on in-person interviews, conflict checks, and retainer agreements. The information contained on this site is intended to educate members of the public generally and is not intended to provide solutions to individual problems. Nor does the use or reliance of information contained on this web site constitute the establishment of a lawyer-client relationship. Readers are cautioned not to attempt to solve individual problems on the basis of information contained herein and are strongly advised to seek competent legal counsel before relying on information on this site.
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