Someone posted a question in the comments section of an old post I wrote in 2009. It’s an excellent question (and I welcome readers to post questions), and since it’s buried, I decided to re-post it here.
I had a Chapter 7 discharged in 2009 (in Wisconsin). I recently became aware that my first and second mortgages were on my credit report as “part of the bankruptcy”, though I have always paid on time, before and after the bankruptcy. I was unaware that I needed to sign formal agreements to do so and my attorney did not advise me in this area. I certainly was never presented with the forms, and in fact, the mortgagor says they did not receive any paperwork. It is now too late to do so and, as a result, I am not getting credit for my payments through the credit bureau. When I asked Bank of America why they did not originate a request to reaffirm (which I assume they would rush to do) I was told it would now be easier for them to foreclose on me, should I ever stop making payments. Should I be concerned? What, if anything can i do at this point? Thanks!
Bankruptcy is good against the world. All of your debts, whether they are listed or unlisted, presumptively dischargeable or non-dischargeable – they are all affected by a bankruptcy filing. In the case of secured loans, bankruptcy eliminates debts, but it does not eliminate liens. Therefore, in having a secured debt discharged in bankruptcy, a secured creditor can still realize their security interests via repossession or foreclosure. This is why – in extremely rare cases – certain vindictive creditors will repossess or foreclose in the absence of a reaffirmation agreement.
Secured debts like mortgages and car loans are actually dischargeable. The reaffirmation agreement is a tool that excepts those debts from discharge and prevents the lender from repossessing or foreclosing unless there is some future default in plan payments. Without the reaffirmation agreement, the debt is technically discharged. With the reaffirmation agreement, the debt survives, and the creditor can collect deficiencies against the debtor in the event of foreclosure or repossession. (Which is why it makes no sense for Bank of America to say it is easier to foreclose – the reaffirmation agreement actually gives them more protection.)
The vast majority of secured creditors will not foreclose or repossess, even if the debtor does not sign a reaffirmation agreement, so long as the debtor continues to make monthly payments. This is called a “ride through”, and it’s a pretty good deal for the debtor, because if they do default in the future, their bankruptcy still protects them from collections.
The downside to the ride through is that the lenders are not required to report payments to the credit bureaus (though some do as a courtesy). And that’s the issue you’re faced with now. Once the case is discharged or closed, the court here in the Eastern District of Wisconsin (other districts may have different policies) will not allow you to reopen the case to file a reaffirmation agreement.I would venture to say that your only two options are to contact Bank of America to see if there is someone you can talk to about having your payments reported or to file a dispute with the credit bureaus (see http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre21.pdf).
The only other option I can think of is for you to refinance. Get a new company to assume the debt, pay off Bank of America, and then – having a valid new debt with the second creditor – your payments would be reported correctly. Unfortunately, this would be a tough feat to accomplish in this economic environment.
Most of the bankruptcy attorneys I know (myself included) will not initiate drafting of reaffirmation agreements, because the lender is generally in the best position to have the details of the original loan agreement necessary to complete the forms. Also (and I’m just speaking for myself), there is no practical way of tracking whether certain creditors have submitted reaffirmation agreements for our clients (especially since it is not always in our clients’ best interest to file a reaffirmation agreement). However, because of the very issue you’re facing, I’ve made a point of informing my clients about reaffirmation agreements, their consequences (both in signing and not signing one) and what they need to do if the lender does not initiate a reaffirmation agreement. Most secured creditors will submit reaffirmation documents without being prompted.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for your situation, but I hope – at least – you find the information useful. Although the lack of credit reporting is unfortunate, I wouldn’t be too concerned about foreclosure. Just keep making your mortgage payments. And in the event you do default on your mortgage in the future and the home does foreclose, you can at least rest easy knowing that they can’t come after you for more money.