Bankruptcy Law/Chapter 7
QUESTION: Hi and thank you for your generosity. I live in the state of Missouri and have recently gotten written notice that my case has been discharged. I am not exactly sure what my question should be as I have many. I am starting to be concerned that the law firm I worked with may possibly be fraudulent in some ways. I included my home as well as my vehicle during the filing. There are just certain things that make me feel concerned such as the lack of professionalism from the paralegal and the apparent incompetent ability to respond in a timely fashion and then there is the fact that no one even showed up for my meeting with the bankruptcy judge. I guess my question should be rather or not I should be concerned? I have left several messages with the paralegal regarding my property which I still hold the keys to (car and house), since being discharged I have been receiving correspondence from my mortgage company regarding foreclosure. Now, my house was in the process of foreclosing when I filed and I was told that the filing would stop the foreclosure and it would not matter since I was not keeping the house. I have never met the attorney that apparently represents me nor have I spoken with him even after requesting a call back. I do not know what to do as the mortgage company is not being pro-active on their part either. My old car has been in someone else's drive way for months and I have heard nothing from the lender who technically owns the car. I am worried with tax season approaching (can they garnish for a property that has been included in a chapter 7 filing?), will I still be responsible for property taxes on the vehicle? Please help!
ANSWER: Did you really hire an attorney or a paralegal petition preparer? the latter normally charge about $200 plus the filing fee and you're totally on your own. If you really hired an attorney and paid substantially more than $200 for the atty, he or she should have been with you at the creditors meeting which was in front of the case trustee (not a judge -- common misconception) as they're required to be there with you. I would complain to the state bar about this sloppy conduct after first demanding a refund of your attorneys fees. I would also suggest you contact the U. S. Trustee's office in your jurisdiction and inform them you hired the attorney and weren't represented properly.
If you just used a petition preparer and NOT an attorney, you got what you paid for it sounds like.
If you're letting the house go I wouldn't worry about that; as to the car, you still own it until they repossess. I have heard that car owners have left their vehicles in a "customers only/we'll tow you away" parking lot or even the public street -- sometimes without a license plate -- I would never tell you to do that but when that happens, the towing company has a possessory lien on the vehicle and notifies the lien holder of its custody of the thing; the lender then has a chance for a limited period, 20-30 days depending on the jurisdiction, to redeem (pay the storage) or the storage co sells it at a public sale afterward and if no one buys it, gets title to it free and cllear of any liens or claims of title by you.
No one that has a discharged mortgage or car loan can garnish anything; that's what is meant by a fresh start.
You can call the car lender and invite them to "come and get it" and if they don't, figure out what to do next; but you're off the hook as I see it as to the car lender and house lender.
I hope that helps. Once the vehicle is repo'd by the lender or towed off to a storage yard and sold you're off the hook for property taxes, so make that call right away.
I hope that helps.
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QUESTION: Thank you so much for your response. I really think it is amazing that there are people like yourself that reach out to help the public. I must say that yes, I paid the full-price for representation $1500.00 plus the cost of credit counseling and no one showed up for the meeting. I even wanted to reschedule the meeting and they told me it would cost me an extra $150.00-$200.00 to do so and still no one showed. An attorney that I did not know had to contact and ask if they wanted her to represent me because otherwise I would have needed to reschedule. So I guess I have to contact the lender to the car to make sure they come and get it even though the paralegal told me they would take care of it? They told me not to worry about it and that they would schedule a pick up, so this means I am now going to be responsible for the taxes even though I was discharged before the new year? I am still getting all sorts of correspondence regarding foreclosure from the lender to my house, they have a sell date for 1/23/2013. I am worried that the foreclosure is going to worsen my credit because Bank of America says the property is still in my name. Are they they supposed to take care of outstanding debt like my mortgage if I include it in the chapter 7? I am so lost and I still have not gotten a return call from the law firm regarding my questions.
Ruth -- first off contact the maryland state bar association and file complaint that your attorney has "abandoned" you and "refused to refund unearned fees"; these are huge issues with bar regulators; you were abandoned as they didnt' show up at the 341 meeting, they don't return your phone calls, they haven't arranged a repo of the car to be surrendered, and you could have gotten that kind of treatment from a do it yourself paralegal that just types up forms for $200. It seems to me that's all you got from these clowns--typing.
I would first send the lawyer a demand letter for a refund of $1,300 by x date (10 days hence) with the note that there will be no further communication with them; your next step will be a complaint to the maryland bar for abandonment and refusal to refund unearned fees. Then do it!! That's disgraceful conduct by them but, unfortunately, typical sometimes of the big firms.
Anyway, next; the car: you call the car co. and tell them it's parked on the street in front of x address (not necessarily your residence, can be around the corner or in the safeway parking lot etc) and they need to come and get it or it's going to get towed off to a storage yard by the city or safeway depending on where it's parked. I would not pay the car tags either.
Finally on the house, they'll foreclose when they're ready & it sounds like they're gearing up for that event. You're off the hook on the mortgage; the house stands good for the debt but not you.
You might want to think about getting a secured visa/mc where you deposit money and that's collateral for the credit line they give you. If you have wells fargo bank bank there, they do this out here for $29 a year or so with no other fees; there are plenty of secured card plans out there that are total ripoffs -- avoid them if there are up front application fees, broker fees, etc etc.
You might also want to check your local credit unions; we have one here that does this for no annual fee for its members --- you have to live, work or worship in certain zip codes usually -- pretty easy standard to meet. Credit unions are non-profit and great places to deal with. AND they have a special atm network (co-op network) many belong to allowing you to use ANY c/u atm anywhere in the country in that network to make deposits to your account or free withdrawals; a feature banks don't have.
now I'm not speaking of a debit card arrangement -- that does nothing to re-est. credit; you want a secured credit card which will be reported to the credit agencies as debit cards are not.
Good luck! Let me know how this all turns out!
PS: Since no one has probably told you this either, you need to get back with the credit-counselor service you used to start with and get "round 2" "financial" counseling from them; and do that right away so your discharge isn't held up. They give you a lecture on bill paying and setting up IRA's and such as that and it is required to be filed with the court before you can get your discharge. The counselors usually give you all the forms and you should sign the statement that you've gotten the counseling AND present that plus the certificate they give you to the bky court clerk; you might want to do that in person (filing). if the clerk gives you any guff about your atty has to file this electronically, tell them your attorney has abandoned you and won't communicate with you; if you need to, get the clerk's SUPERVISOR involved so they'll take the forms.