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Fewer people filing for bankruptcy

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  • Fewer people filing for bankruptcy

    May 22, 2011

    Bankruptcies in Western New York continued to fall in April for the 11th straight month, driven, in part, by a slowdown in mortgage foreclosures and less credit available for borrowers to get into trouble.

    New filings in Buffalo and Rochester fell 15.8 percent from April 2010 to 740, with drops recorded in both markets, according to figures from the U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York. The district includes 17 counties.

    Specifically, filings fell 7.5 percent to 494 in Buffalo and 28.7 percent to 246 in Rochester.

    Through April, new filings in 2011 fell 13.5 percent in Buffalo, to 1,619, and 16.5 percent in Rochester, to 889.

    “Bankruptcy is a safety valve. If bankruptcies aren’t being filed, consumers are having fewer problems, and it’s a good thing for Western New York,” said Buffalo bankruptcy attorney Jeffrey M. Freedman. “It means more people have their houses in order and they’re not getting into trouble as much.”


    Bankruptcies declining

    Cases filed January through April in eight-county Buffalo district



    -13.5 % change

    Buffalo district includes Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

    Source: U.S. Bankruptcy Court


    This fresh decline comes on top of a drop last year, as filings in the same period of 2010 were down 6.9 percent from 2009, when total filings were 3,153. Filings have fallen every month since last May.

    “They’ve been steadily going down,” said Barry Sternberg, an Amherst bankruptcy attorney.

    By contrast, while national figures are down slightly, that’s compared with very high figures a year ago. And certain markets in the Southwest and Southeast, including California, Nevada and Florida, are still reporting peak levels of new filings. Indeed, one of every six bankruptcy filings is in California.

    “Our economy is different than

    the national economy,” said Robert Gleichenhaus, partner at Gleichenhaus, Marchese and Falcone. “It never really rose as well as the national economy did. Therefore, it didn’t have as much of a dive to take.”

    The reasons for the drop have more to do with secondary effects of the recession than with actual economic improvement.

    As losses mounted during the crisis and recession, banks and credit card issuers sharply curtailed the availability of credit, particularly to less-creditworthy borrowers. They reduced credit lines, canceled cards, denied new applications, and cut back on marketing new credit cards. That means borrowers can’t run up as much debt.

    “It’s not like it used to be 10 years ago when they were just mailing them out,” Freedman said. “You’re going to have less people with credit card debt.”

    “Bankruptcy filings are driven by the amount of credit available in the marketplace,” Sternberg said. “So with fewer people having access to credit, fewer people are getting in trouble.”

    At the same time, those who did have credit cut back on their own spending, fearful of economic conditions and job loss. So total consumer spending and debt are down, which means fewer people need bankruptcy protection.

    “To the extent that consumer spending declines, that may be an indication that the amount of unsecured debt would decline as well,” said Carl L. Bucki, chief judge of the bankruptcy court in Buffalo.

    Locally, by type of filing in April, there were 591 cases filed under Chapter 7 — 409 in Buffalo and 182 in Rochester—and 147 under Chapter 13 — 84 in Buffalo and 63 in Rochester. The vast majority were nonbusiness filings. There was also one case under Chapter 11.

    Chapter 7 calls for business or consumer debts to be erased so the debtor can start over, while Chapter 13 reorganizes consumer debts but mandates a repayment plan. Chapter 11 is akin to Chapter 13, but for businesses.

    Within the eight-county Buffalo region, 309 of the filings in April were in Erie County and 82 were in Niagara County. Another 38 were filed in Chautauqua County, while Cattaraugus County had 17, Orleans County had 16, Genesee County had 14, Wyoming County had 10, and Allegany County had eight.

    Passage of the 2005 bankruptcy reform law cut the overall number of bankruptcy cases dramatically at first. The law imposed new hurdles for filers and required many to file under Chapter 13 rather than Chapter 7. But after the initial plunge, total filings in Western New York trended up for several years, before reversing in 2010.

    Another major cause of the bankruptcy decline is a slowdown in the foreclosure process, both in New York and nationally.

    Typically, Chapter 7 is used by debtors who have only unsecured debt — such as credit cards—while Chapter 13 is designed for those with secured debt, such as a mortgage or car loan. So when a foreclosure is initiated, one common tactic to stop the seizure of a home is to file for bankruptcy. Hence the surge in bankruptcies in past years as foreclosures picked up with the mortgage debacle.

    But foreclosures have slowed considerably or even ground to a halt in the past year, partly because of the national controversy over so-called “robo-signing.”

    That’s where mortgage servicing companies and law firms admitted they signed court affidavits and other legal paperwork attesting to facts and circumstances they did not know. That was part of an assembly-line process designed to speed up foreclosures to ensure defaulted properties could be handled quickly and efficiently.

    The admissions led to nationwide moratoriums on foreclosures while banks reviewed and resubmitted court documents.

    And in New York, it led to a new court mandate for attorneys to personally attest to the facts and documents, putting their own credibility at risk.

    As a result, lenders and lawyers have initiated far fewer foreclosures. The drop in bankruptcies in Buffalo in April was entirely due to Chapter 13 cases, according to court statistics.

    “It’s caused a delay in the process,” Baumeister said. “People are able to stay in their homes and not have to file.”

    Additionally, state law in New York now requires borrowers and creditors to meet in a settlement conference to try to work out a loan modification or other solution before a foreclosure can proceed. Such conferences have been particularly successful in upstate and especially Western New York, alleviating the threat of foreclosure.

    “If people aren’t under the pressure or they’re resolving it in state court, then there’s less need for bankruptcy,” Bucki said. “You don’t need to use that method of last resort.”
    8/4/2008 MAKE SURE AND VISIT Tobee's Blogs! and all are welcome to bk forum's Florida State Questions and Answers on BK

  • #2
    Or maybe they are just too broke to pay the lawyer.

    Keep On Smilin'


    • #3
      i don't believe it really. i agree no one has the money to pay the atty's!! actually, from what i'm hearing about nj, the state budget and all, things are getting worse and not better???
      8/4/2008 MAKE SURE AND VISIT Tobee's Blogs! and all are welcome to bk forum's Florida State Questions and Answers on BK


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