During your Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may hear the trustee or your own attorney say, “Secured property must be paid for or returned.” If you have a debt that is secured by a lien on property, you must make arrangements to pay the creditor or surrender the property. That is the general rule, but its not always the case.
A lien is a interest given to a creditor that secures future payment of a debt. If you fail to make your payments as agreed, the collateral pledged as security for the loan can be repossessed (or foreclosed in the case of a home loan). A lien will generally survive a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, hence the “pay or return” statement. For instance, you cannot discharge a loan secured by a car and keep the car. You have three options concerning secured debts on Chapter 7 bankruptcy:
Reaffirmation – if you want to keep the secured property and continue paying the loan, you can reaffirm the debt and continue the relationship with the creditor. The debt and lien survive the bankruptcy by mutual agreement between the debtor and creditor.
Redemption – secured property can be redeemed for its fair market value during Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Redemption does not apply to home mortgages.
Surrender – If you cannot afford to keep and continue paying on a secured item, you can surrender the property back to the creditor and “walk away” owing nothing.
A fourth option, called “ride through,” may be available under certain circumstances. “Ride through” occurs when the debtor discharges the debt, but the creditor is unable to enforce its lien because of a lack of breach of contract or some other state law impediment. Finally, if you have pledged household property that you own to secure payment of a personal loan, you may be able to strip off the lien and keep your property.
Your bankruptcy attorney will evaluate your secured property and recommend a course of action. While each case is different, the Chapter 7 debtor generally keeps all of his or her property. The bankruptcy laws are flexible to discharge burdensome debt and allow you to keep your home and family vehicles. Speak with an experienced attorney concerning the specifics of your case.