Published On: August 19, 2014
Mortgage lenders requiring all borrowers to sign a reaffirmation as part of a bankruptcy before agreeing to refinance the loan
Wells Fargo and other lenders who have this policy ignore bankruptcy law governing reaffirmation and some state laws governing deficiency.
When a homeowner files for bankruptcy for many there is a lender on the home involved. Once the discharge of the debts is entered by the Bankruptcy Court then borrower is no longer personally liable for the debt. But, if the borrower wants to keep their home they will need to pay the regular monthly payment because there is a lien or security interest in the real property. Some lenders will ask the borrower to reaffirm the debt by signing a reaffirmation agreement after the bankruptcy was filed. In some states this reaffirmation agreement will give the lender the right to sue the borrower if there is a later default. Certain states, including Arizona, have anti-deficiency statutes which protect the homeowner in certain circumstances.
Per the reaffirmation agreement language set out in the Code, “…No court approval is required if your reaffirmation agreement is for a consumer debt secured by a mortgage, deed of trust, security deed, or other lien on your real property, like your home.”
United States Bankruptcy Code, 11 § 524(k)(3)(J)(i)7.
Some states have laws that protect their homeowners called no-recourse or anti-deficiency statutes. For instance in Arizona a homeowner cannot be sued after a trustee’s sale is completed so long as the property fits into a certain description: 2 1/2 acres or less, utilized and occupied as a one or two family residence. Therefore, even if an Arizona homeowner signs a reaffirmation agreement they will be not be liable on a first position deed of trust (probably not true for a junior deed of trust). Having said that the judges in Arizona will not sign reaffirmation agreements on residential property. They take this position in order to protect the naive homeowner who is being bullied by the lender into signing a reaffirmation agreement.
Reaffirmation agreement becomes effective upon filing with the Court if represented by an attorney and not presumed an undue hardship. Per the reaffirmation agreement language set out in the Code, “…No court approval is required if your reaffirmation agreement is for a consumer debt secured by a mortgage, deed of trust, security deed, or other lien on your real property, like your home.” § 524(k)(3)(J)(i)7.
Many lenders (especially Wells Fargo) will state that they cannot refinance a mortgage loan because the loan was not reaffirmed in the bankruptcy. This is a line of malarkey. Any lender has the right to refinance any loan, assuming no federal or state prohibitions. Instead the lender blames the borrower’s attorney. Stating that the attorney did something wrong. In Arizona this is a bold faced lie.
Many programs will refinance once a bankruptcy is completed. For instance -Borrowers who have received a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge in a case involving the first lien mortgage who did not reaffirm the mortgage debt under applicable law are eligible for certain programs, depending on the type of loan. According to one expert “The following language must be inserted in Section 1 of the Home Affordable Modification Agreement: “I was discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding subsequent to the execution of the loan documents. Based on this representation, Lender agrees that I will not have personal liability on the debt pursuant to this Agreement.” ” Accord, In re Bellano, 456 B.R. 220, 224 (Bankr. E.D. Pa. 2011); In re Owens, 10-72509, 2013 WL 4052874 (Bankr. W.D. Va. Aug. 9, 2013) (“…the lack of a reaffirmation agreement with the Bank and the issuance of the discharge to the Debtor do not appear to preclude the latter even now from filing an application under the HAMP program.”); In re Pope, 10-19688-RGM, 2011 WL 671972 (Bankr. E.D. Va. Feb. 17, 2011) (Finding that a lender’s requirement of reaffirmation as a condition precedent to consideration of a loan modification was improper).
SO WHAT IS MY POINT? Your lender is not your friend when it comes to reaffirmation agreements. Talk to your attorney, get good legal advice in order to determine the law and your rights. Talk to the folks at www.makinghomeaffordable.gov. Talk to other lenders. This is an area of law that is changing every day. Do not fall into the trap of assuming a “no” today will still be a “no” tomorrow.
About the Author: Diane Drain
Diane is a well respected Arizona bankruptcy and foreclosure attorney. As a retired law professor, she believes in offering everyone, not just her clients, advice about bankruptcy and Arizona foreclosure laws. Diane is also a mentor to hundreds of Arizona attorneys.
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