41726030 - redeem word on an orange ticket to illustrate special offer redemption or contest winning entry

What is “redemption” in bankruptcy?

  • Redemption is an option available to Chapter 7 individual debtor (not corporations or business entities).
  • Redemption may allow the debtor to keep personal property (intended for personal, family, or household use) which is acting as collateral for a secured debt.
  • The most common example of personal property may be redeemed is an automobile.
  • The personal property is redeemed by paying the lienholder the amount of its allowed secured claim in full by one lump sum payment.  However, the road to redemption is oftentimes too difficult for debtors to travel because of the lump sum payment requirement.

60746631 - redemption written on the road

How does “redemption” work?

Suppose the debtor files for bankruptcy and still owes $20,000 to ABC Bank on her Honda Civic but, the car is now only worth $12,000.  In this scenario, ABC Bank has a debt secured by the vehicle up to its value ($12,000) and $8,000 that is essentially unsecured.

During the redemption process, the debtor can generally wipe out the unsecured portion (in this example, $8,000) by paying ABC Bank a lump sum of $12,000.  If the debtor chooses redemption and can follow through with payment, the debtor will own the car free and clear once the debtor receives her discharge.

If redemption is not an option, the debtor may be able to keep her Honda Civic by “reaffirming” the debt instead.  In that case, the debtor signs a “reaffirmation agreement” with ABC Bank prior to discharge where, the debtor agrees to again become legally obligated to pay all or portion of the entire debt owed by the debtor on the Honda Civic to ABC Bank, essentially excepting the debt from discharge.

Yet another option would be for the debtor to surrender her Honda Civic to ABC Bank.  In this case, assuming the debtor receives her discharge, she will no longer by liable for any debt to ABC Bank on the Honda Civic.

The decision whether to surrender, redeem, or reaffirm in bankruptcy is a difficult one and any debtor facing these issues will want to consult an experienced bankruptcy attorney before making any election.


  Heather L. Ries is an attorney with the Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy Department of the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP. Heather focuses her practice in matters related to bankruptcy, creditors’ rights, commercial workout and foreclosure disputes, and commercial litigation. You can contact Heather at 561-804-4419 or hries@foxrothschild.com.

 

In my May 26th post, I raised several questions that unsecured creditors in any Chapter 11 case should know the answers to and take action where appropriate.  One of those questions is “Am I entitled to priority payment?”  This is also important to answer in a Chapter 7 case.

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Your delinquent customer told you not to worry, you were first in line for payment, and that payment would be coming soon.  Next thing you know, your customer has filed a bankruptcy and you have not been paid.  As discussed in my June 24th post, you obtain a proof of claim form and are prepared to fill it out and file it before the deadline, but then you get to the last question, number 12 – “Is all or part of the claim entitled to priority under 11 U.S.C. § 507(a)?”

Your first impulse is to check “yes” – of course you are entitled to priority – the debtor told you that you were first place, a VIP for payment.

37035389 - vip abstract quilted background, diamonds and golden letters with crown.

NOT so fast…most creditors’ claims are “general” unsecured claims, and not entitled to priority treatment.  Take a breath and ask yourself, does my claim fit into any of the following categories:

  • domestic & child support obligation;
  • salary, wages, or benefits owed to an employee;
  • deposit of less than $2,850.00 towards the purchase, lease, or rental of property or services for personal, family, or household use;
  • claim for contribution to an employee benefit plan;
  • claim of grain farmer or fisherman relating to storage and processing facility;
  • certain unsecured taxes or penalties owed to the government;
  • claim for death or personal injury resulting from operation of a motor vehicle or vessel by an intoxicated debtor;
  • customs duty arising out of the importation of merchandise; or
  • claim based on commitment by the debtor to a Federal depository institutions regulatory agency to maintain the capital of an insured deposition institution.

If you fall into one of these categories, GREAT, but chances are that you DO NOT!  Resist the urge to check “other”!  Check the “No” box, sign the bottom of the form and send it in.

Feeling angry and/or depressed?  If your customer is in Chapter 11, you may want to consider joining a support group – perhaps the “Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors” – fondly referred to as the OCC or GUCCs.  I’ll be back to discuss that in a future blog post!


Heather L. Ries is an attorney with the Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy Department of the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Heather focuses her practice in matters related to bankruptcy, creditors’ rights, commercial workout and foreclosure disputes, and commercial litigation.  You can contact Heather at 561-804-4419 or hries@foxrothschild.com.

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The Eleventh Circuit’s opinions in In re McNeal1, Bank of America v. Caulkett2 and Bank of America v. Toledo-Cardona3 put second mortgages in greater jeopardy for lenders when the Eleventh Circuit held that second-priority mortgage liens could be eliminated completely (i.e. “stripped off”) in chapter 7 bankruptcy cases where collateral is worth less than the amount of the first mortgage. On appeal of the Caulkett and Toledo-Cardona cases, the amici argued that affirmance of those decisions (http://business-finance-restructuring.weil.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/LSTA-Brief.pdf) could “ripple through the commercial loan market, impact the holders of junior liens, and dampen their appetite to lend on a junior basis.”

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 1, 2015 in Bank of America, N.A. v. Caulkett, 135 S.Ct. 1995 (2015) (http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/13-1421_p8k0.pdf), which will benefit lenders, declined to allow the two chapter 7 debtors, Caulkett and Toledo-Cardona, to rid themselves of second mortgages on their homes despite the fact that the first mortgages exceeded their home’s current value.  Specifically, the Supreme Court held that debtor in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding may not void a junior mortgage lien under 11 U.S.C. § 506(d) when the debt owed on a senior mortgage lien exceeds the current value of the collateral if the creditor’s claim is both secured by a lien and allowed under 11 U.S.C. § 502.  For now, this decision provides a measure of relief for real estate lenders, avoiding the disorder and chaos real estate markets might have suffered if the Eleventh Circuit decisions had been affirmed and second-lien holders had little, if any, recourse on loans with severely diminished equity positions. For now the message is clear, Stop Stripping!…junior liens in chapter 7.

 

1477 Fed.Appx. 562, 2012 WL 1649853, at *1 (11th Cir. May 11, 2012)

2566 Fed.Appx. 897, (11th Cir. 2014)

3556 Fed.Appx. 911, (11th Cir. 2014)