“Occupy Chicago” wants to forgive student loans. Your student loan bailout should be through bankruptcy!

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement has created many spinoff movements all over the country like the one here in San Diego.  After hearing criticism for their lack of coherent demands, the “Occupy Chicago” chapter came out with a list of demands on Monday.  Among other things, like taxing the wealthy and attacking Wall Street, they want student loans forgiven.  I argued in a blog that I posted Sunday on the Occupy San Diego movement that student loans should be dischargeable in bankruptcy.

In the face of the bailouts that Wall Street firms and banks received more and more people are asking “where is our bailout”?  Regular people have a tremendous amount of debt which they cannot afford and they believe that justice demands that they need some consideration from government.  It is true that almost 50% of people pay no income taxes but should we bailout the 99% with massive wealth transfers?

I say no.   Most people in this country will not go for that.  I have argued for years on my blog that a bailout plan already exists for the 99% of us that are neither rich nor giant corporations.  It’s called bankruptcy and bankruptcy allows you to legally walk away from your debts and have them discharged so you no longer owe them.  You can then get a fresh start debt free and keep what money you earn from employment.  Everyone can avail themselves of bankruptcy.  You don’t have to be a privileged person or corporation to get it.  In fact if you make too much money you will be means tested out of a chapter 7.

So bankruptcy is available for regular people but there is a problem.  Student loans cannot be included in bankruptcy.  Student loans currently are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.   They do therefore indeed last forever or until you allege “undue hardship” which is very hard to prove.  If these student loans were to be included in the lists of debts that people could discharge in bankruptcy then regular people would not be saddled with them forever.  They could escape them and move on in life with their student loans forgiven.

This could be done so much more easily and fairly in the context of bankruptcy than through some government blanket forgiveness.  Bankruptcy has been around for hundreds of years and the systems are in place to handle forgiveness of debt through the filing of bankruptcy.  There are trustees and judges to oversee each individual to make sure that the people asking for forgiveness really can’t afford to pay these debts back because the have neither the income or assets to do so.

In bankruptcy there are even proscribed exemptions that allow each person to keep a certain amount of property.  For most of the 99% this would amount to people keeping all of their property because most people don’t have more than these allowed exemption amounts.

This solution will also be so much more palatable to the American public.  It allows the forgiveness of the student loan debt but within the confines of the bankruptcy system.  Each individual would have to file for bankruptcy to get his student loan debt forgiveness.  He would then be examined by a Trustee and he would face a judge if fraud or other problems came up.   His income and expenses would be looked at to determine that he could not pay his debts with his current income and thus he is formally bankrupt. Those who could afford to pay the loans would then have to do so in some form but many many student loan debtors would be able to escape these loans if they were dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy is no blanket gift.

And it would be fair.  Many people with student loans cannot afford to pay these loans and they have very little hope of paying them back.  They are under employed or more likely unemployed and they cannot afford their living expenses let alone these student loans that have not even landed them a job.  It is simply not fair that a person who used their credit cards to excess can discharge those debts but the person trying to get an education and a job can never escape them even if they have no money and no job.

But many people will say that if we make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy then student loans will be harder to get.   Maybe that is a good thing and people won’t borrow money for degrees that won’t lead to a job.  But I also believe that as credit cards are still obtainable by most people today and they are dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy has not stopped that industry and dischargeable student loans will not stop lenders from lending money for these loans either.

It also should not matter whether the loans are government or private.  If  they are private then the loans should be treated like credit cards and if government loans are owed then forgiveness of these loans is only fair in light of the bailouts given by the government to the financial industry.  Whether government or private though the effect is the same on people.  They can’t afford to pay them back in many cases.  (Remember also that IRS tax debt is dischargeable after only 3 years and the IRS still continues to operate).

And for further fairness you could make student loans dischargeable after a period of time say 10 or even 20 years.  If the student has not paid them back by that time then they are certainly having a problem and they probably can’t pay them back.  It is only fair to allow people to escape them in time.

I am a bankruptcy attorney practicing bankruptcy law in San Diego, CA.   For further information please visit my website at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshsatartsandiego.com.   Or call my office for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  If you or someone you know are considering bankruptcy then get my Free e-book “13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPCTY FILING” by e-mailing me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

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Possible foreclosure settlement with the banks! $20 billion to be set aside by banks to fund mortgage modifications!

According to Fox Business there is a potential agreement to reach a settlement between the banks and the Department of Justice over the banks’ use of improper mortgage practices and robosigning.  There are numerous types of improper mortgage practices and robosigning was the practice whereby the banks signed batches of mortgages without reading them.  Bank of America and Chase are the banks that are announcing the settlement which is good because they are two of the largest banks.  I did not see Wells Fargo listed in the potential settlement agreement.

The settlement would contain $20 billion in a “monetary relief fund” that presumably would be set aside to use for mortgage modifications..  This would hopefully allow people who had previously been turned down for a modification in the past to now get a modification.  Also part of the deal is an overhaul of the entire mortgage system by putting in sweeping new guidelines that would fundamentally change the industry like the Tobacco settlement changed that industry in 1998.

None of the banks nor the justice department is commenting on the deal and there are several sticking points.  The banks want immunity from lawsuits if they do this overhaul and set aside $20 billion.  Several states have problems with giving the banks immunity.  California has already apparently said that it won’t and it has backed out of the settlement.  Arizona and Nevada are separately suing Bank of America and New York state has its reservations too.

There are numerous class action lawsuits filed against the banks which the banks want to get dismissed as part of the settlement.  Also its unclear what the requirements will be to receive one of these settlement mortgages/modifications.  The administration has a bad history of running these programs.  The article points out that the Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program (EHLP) was just shut down as it was badly administered, had too high income requirements, and failed to help nearly the number of people who it was designed for.

It’s hard to say what will come out of this.  If $20 billion is set aside then there will be a pool of money to lend to people or to fund modifications that were previously denied.  That would be a good thing.  But if this program is as poorly run as EHLP then people may have trouble accessing it.

It would be a good thing though if there were new standards for determining what was required for a modification.  My clients would universally all tell the same horror story of what happened when they applied to get a bank to modify their loan.   They would send the same documents to the bank over and over again and each time they called they would speak to a new person at the bank.  No one at the banks knew what was going on or what was needed to process the application.  They would eventually give up or they would be denied because they suddenly made too little money.  Sometimes they would be paying the new modified rate for a year when they were denied.

This is a system that is broken beyond repair and which needs some standards and some predictability.  Why can’t there be set rules governing mortgages and mortgage modifications?  Why can’t those rules be written so that people can understand the rules and know what is required of them?  Why can’t they have some assurance that if they follow these rules or comply with these requirements they will get their mortgage or their loan modification?  It’s not rocket science and it the mortgage industry should not be an enigma wrapped in a riddle surrounded by a mystery as Winston Churchill said.

So I look forward to more straight forward standards and lets hope that something good comes out of this settlement so more people can modify their mortgages and keep their homes.  In the mean time I always advise my clients that if they have a lot of other credit card type debt then they should file for personal bankruptcy.  This will eliminate these payments and free up income so they can qualify for a modification.  It will certainly help their debt to income ratio.

I will give more updates in the future if and when this settlement is reached.

I am a bankruptcy attorney practicing bankruptcy law in San Diego, CA.  For more information please visit my website at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  If you or someone you know is considering bankruptcy then get my FREE E-BOOK “13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPTCY FILING” bt e-mailing me at; farquharesq@yahoo.com.

“Occupy San Diego” has begun! But if you want a bailout like the banks then try bankruptcy. (But let’s add student loans to the list of dischargeable debts)

The “Occupy San Diego” movement is currently in full swing in our city.  Protestors have marched through San Diego and occupied a park in downtown.  It remains unclear just what they are protesting though.  Some in the movement say it’s “corporate greed”.  According to an article in Sign on San Diego the protestors are not just angry about corporate greed but they also object to the money flowing into the political system from the financial industry and the banks.  According to the “Occupy San Diego” website those in the movement say they are for “social and economic justice” and they are protesting “global financial corruption” and the financial influence that has infiltrated everything and led to the current economic crisis.

On the “Occupy San Diego” website they also have a list of items they recommend people bring to the protest, along with their tents, much like the lists for camping trips.  They tell you where the bathrooms are and whether the are 24 hour or not.  They talk about first aid, entertainment, as well as security.  Mostly they seem to be ready to stay and occupy these parks in San Diego for a long time as they prepare their list of demands.

Apparently the movement is being advertised and spread rapidly by social media and it is gaining steam.  Where it goes and when it ends is anyone’s guess.  I must admit that this thing is somewhat fascinating as I can’t remember another movement like this even though I don’t necessarily agree with some of the premises like the anti-capitalist, pro-government emphasis.  I personally prefer small government libertarian ideas that emphasize personal freedom.  But the movement is certainly interesting and I intend to drive by and maybe mingle as I work downtown.

We who practice bankruptcy law though do believe in our cause too.  We believe that we bring freedom from the terrible burdens of debt to average people who are 99%ers.  We regulary help free people from this debt but we also bring equality too.  We bankruptcy attorneys can take you down the same road as one of these corporations that regularly file for bankruptcy and shed their debt.  Any one individual person (or couple) can file and be just like a corporation.

We in bankruptcy believe he average person’s bailout is a bankruptcy.  What is a bailout after all except a forgiveness of your debt?  You don’t have to wait for the government to give you something that only big financial institutions have.  The 99% already have the power to get their debts forgiven.  You can get your debts forgiven tomorrow.  The legal framework already has been in place for hundreds of years. Average people just have to avail themselves of the bankruptcy process.

And if you are unemployed and have no income to pay those debts then bankruptcy makes even more sense.  Imagine waking up tomorrow debt free.  How would that feel?  You could get your bailout just like big financial corporations did if you file for bankruptcy.  It’s a wonderful thing for sure.

It is also true that many people around the country have massive student loans left over from their education. Many people had to borrow heavily to originally fund their education so they could get a job.  Many of those people cannot get a job now in this economy and they have no money to pay those loans back.

It is also true that these debts are not currently dischargeable in bankruptcy.  In fact Obama’s latest spending bill would allow private collectors for these loans robocall your cell phone to harass you into paying these loans.  He is making the situation therefore worse by allowing these companies to go after you for debts which you probably cannot pay.

If this movement wants to put in a demand that these debts should be dischargeable in bankruptcy then the movement would gain the support of mostly all those who work in bankruptcy because we believe that these debts should be dischargeable.  There is no reason why students should be saddled with these debts forever but someone who over-used their credit cards can get rid of those debts.

A stipulation could be put in the new law that the student loan debt would not be dischargeable until they are 10 or even 20 years old.  This would give collectors time to collect these debts and if they can’t collect in this time then they would have to forgo collection if the person filed bankruptcy.  I believe that it’s fair to say that f the collectors can’t collect within 10 or 20 years then the debtor probably will not ever be able to pay.  Those debts are probably uncollectable and debtors should be freed from having to pay them the way financial institutions have been given infusions of cash so they can continue to operate their businesses.

How about including that demand that in this protest?  If this happens then more people will obtain financial freedom and greater parity with corporations.  Student loans can be onerous for people who have no way to pay them in this economy.  How about a student loan bailout?  Make these loans dischargeable in bankruptcy and that is all you would have to do.

As for the protest I will continue to watch with great interest as I want to see where it goes and how it ends up.  Will these people ever go home?  Will hey set up tent cities?  Will violence occur or will they be peaceful?  Will police make arrests?  How many will join those already there?  Then where will they all go?  Will they shut down operations in this city?  What will happen nationwide?

I will continue to follow and blog about this movement.

I am a bankruptcy attorney practicing bankruptcy law in San Diego, CA.  For more information please visit my website at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  Call now for free credit report and analysis! 

If you or someone you know is considering bankruptcy then get my FREE E-BOOK; “13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPTCY FILING” by e-mailing me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Is the economy improving? Will I be “means tested” out of bankruptcy if I get a good paying job?

I don’t know if the economy is improving but if you are going to be starting a new job soon it could mean that it’s a good time to file bankruptcy.  If you have been unemployed and you have a lot of debts that you wish to discharge in bankruptcy then it might be good for you to file before you get a new job.  If the economy is actually improving then so will job prospects.  If you get a new job then this will possibly impact your ability to file.  If you make too much money you may be “means tested” out of bankruptcy.  There are limits to how much income you can make and still file a chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The means test was added in 2005 to force people into a chapter 13 so the creditors could get some sort of payments on their debts.  The law was lobbied for and written by the credit card companies and big banks (same thing).

At the time of this article in San Diego county income limits range from just over $47,000 per year for an individual to $77,596 for a family of four.  (You add $7,500 per year for each family member after 4 people).  If you make more than these amounts that are allowed for your family size then you would go into the means test.  When you are in the means test then all of the deductions for mortgages, cars, healthcare, charity, and taxes are subtracted from your income to see if you pass.  If you do not pass the means test then you must do a chapter 13 bankruptcy as you are “means tested” out of a chapter 7.

It is far better though to not go into the means test at all.  It is better to fall below the means test cut-off line and not take the test at all.  If you file while you are still unemployed or soon after you job starts then you will have a higher chance of coming in below the means test limits.

If your income is going to go up significantly then it is a good time to file sooner rather than later.  The means test looks back six months so if you just started a job then you would still be okay but don’t delay the filing and risk not qualifying for a chapter 7.   A chapter 7 will allow you to eliminate all of your dischargeable debts and then get a fresh start as you move on with your life and your new job.

Remember that most people can keep most of their assets in a bankruptcy and most people can eliminate all of their dischargeable debts.  Some debts are not dischargeable but consult me or another bankruptcy attorney if you are wondering which debts are dischargeable.  Also you can file alone and your spouse does not have to file with you.  Bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for up to ten years but with the proper re-building most people can get their score up significantly after two or three years.

So bankruptcy is not the end but a new beginning!  It is a fresh start that many need!  It might be a good time to file now though if you are going to start a new job so you can start a new life debt free!

I am San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  Please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  Call now for free credit report and analysis!  For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Shadow market tsunami!- It will take 4 years to sell all of these foreclosed homes! Good time to file bankruptcy.

(For an update on the curent state of foreclosures see this blog:  http://bit.ly/JGU1dZ ).

According to an article in the Daily Real Estate News it will take 4 years to clear the backlog of real estate “shadow inventory”.  The banks don’t admit that they have this inventory but they do.  Now we find out that there is indeed a four-year supply of these homes and the supply appears to be growing.

This is why home prices should remain depressed for some time.  Even if the overall economy turns around the housing market still operates on a supply and demand basis.  If there is this huge inventory of foreclosed homes that the banks are holding off the market then it will take some time before it is moved through the system.  We now get the word that there is this four-year supply of these shadow homes out there waiting to be sold.  I look for housing prices to be depressed for at least that long.

Scarier still is the statistic that this shadow market is up 11% in the fourth quarter of 2010 and up 40% from a year ago and the number of homes that are actually part of this shadow inventory appear to be growing.  According to the article Standard & Poors defines shadow inventory as properties with borrowers who are 90 days or more delinquent on their mortgage payments, properties currently or recently in foreclosure, or properties that are real estate owned (REOs). 

They point out that shadow inventory peaked in 2008 but that is probably because banks are currently waiting longer to foreclose on properties.  I have clients who have homes that they have stopped paying for and that they have moved out of a year or two ago and no foreclosure has been started.  It seems that banks are slowing down their rate of foreclosure processing.  This inaction creates more shadow inventory because there are now more homes that don’t show up on anyone’s radar.  These homes that don’t get moved through the system are in limbo and whether occupied or unoccupied realtors cannot list them for sale.   The number of homes like this are growing.

The article prints a chart where they show the number of months that it will take to clear these shadow homes.  It ranges from a high of 130 months in New York to a low of 25 months in Phoenix.  The other cities are Atlanta 49, Boston 71, Charlotte 65, Chicago 59, Cleveland 57, Dallas 56, Denver 38, Detroit 31, Las Vegas 33, Los Angeles 50, Miami 60, Minneapolis, 38, Portland 51, San Diego 39, San Francisco 42, Seattle 59 Tampa 57, Wash. D.C. 50.  It is clear from this chart that this is a nationwide problem of a shadow inventory of unsold and unlisted homes.

New York alone has $116.7 billion in shadow inventory according to Standard & Poors and because of the slower liquidation rate there New York will take 2.7 times longer to clear this inventory.  Los Angeles has a larger volume of shadow mortgages, $173.1 billion, which amounts to 31.5% of all outstanding mortgages.  L.A. has a faster rate of liquidating distressed properties.  My own city of San Diego has a 39 month backlog of shadow homes.

Default of home mortgage modifications remains high also.  80% of people have defaulted on their modified loans in the past and though the default rate is declining they say it still remains high.  My clients report extreme difficulty in getting their banks to agree to modifications of their mortgages.  It’s discouraging that such a high percentage of modifications go into default if people do in fact manage to get through the very difficult modification process.

The funny part is that the banks repeatedly deny that there is a shadow market or shadow inventory of unsold homes.  Realtors know that there is such a market as they can’t get listings for many of these homes that banks are holding off the market.  If banks now slow down or stall the foreclosure process then it will only increase this shadow inventory and increase the amount of time necessary to clear it before housing prices can rebound.

Don’t be surprised if the real estate market lags well behind any other economic recovery that happens in the country.  It is also possible that this huge inventory will act as a drag on the overall economy and prevent a recovery.  It could become what some have labeled as a “shadow tsunami”.

It is obviously a good time to buy a house though if you are going to keep the home for a while and its a good time to stay in your home longer if you are currently in a foreclosure.  It is also a good time to file for bankruptcy as prices will still be low in two years.  It takes two years to elapse after a bankruptcy before you can get a FHA loan approved.  Don’t allow your home to be sold at a foreclosure sale though as then you will have to wait five to seven years to buy a home.  Better to do a short sale and save your credit.

I am a bankruptcy attorney practicing in San Diego.  Please visit my website at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  Call now for free credit report and analysis! 

For a free e-book: “13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPTCY FILING” please send a request by e-mail to: farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Shadow inventory of foreclosed homes- could it mean we have shadow depression?

(See my currnet blog for an updateon foreclosures: http://bit.ly/JGU1dZ ).

There appears to be a definite “shadow market” of foreclosed homes that the banks are holding off the market.  They sometimes call this the “shadow inventory”

The banks are holding these homes off the market presumably to prevent a real estate crisis.  As I wrote before about this issue there is this huge reservoir of homes that the banks have foreclosed on and taken full possession of.  These homes are “shadow inventory” because the banks have kept them in the shadows and they have not listed these homes on the MLS for realtors to sell.

The Wall Street Journal recently did a story on this shadow inventory.  In that story they cite a study done by real estate consulting firm in Irvine California.  They estimate that there are 4.7 million homes in this unreported market which amounts to a 10 month supply of homes but the number could rise to as many as 5.6 million homes.  Some of the worst cities have a 20 month shadow supply of unlisted and unsold homes.

Analysts at Standard & Poor’s report that the largest backlog of shadow inventory exists in New York city followed by Miami.  Standard & Poor’s estimates that the time it will take to clear this inventory is up 18% over the first 6 months of 2010.

There is certainly a lot of homes in the “shadows” and this is a serious problem.  This is why some realtors are predicting that this foreclosure/housing crisis will be with us for 5 to 10 years.   The Irvine report also estimates that this shadow inventory will stay at elevated levels until 2016!

The report says that sales of distressed homes will rise to 40% of all home sales through 2012 and that real estate prices will continue to fall by 8% to 11% through 2012!  They also predict that if the economy worsens or if interest rates rise then housing prices will decline further and for longer.  According to the report distressed home sales will peak at 2.3 million homes next year.  So we haven’t reached the peak yet and it will get worse.

Worse than that a friend of mine was at a real estate conference recently attended by a president of a big bank.  The bank president denied the existence of a shadow inventory.  If the banks don’t want to admit that there is a shadow inventory and it is well-known enough for consulting firms and the Wall Street Journal to write about then what are they trying to hide and why?

Can we not take the truth?  It seems to me as I have written about many times that we are currently in a depression.  I don’t expect that anyone in government or the banks (who are now very closely tied to the government) will admit it.  They obviously have no problem lying about the shadow inventory of homes so it seems unlikely that we would ge the truth about how deep this economic crisis is.

I’m sure they will tell us when it’s all over.

I am a bankruptcy attorney in San Diego.  For further help please visit my website at www.farquharlaw.com.

Help coming for mortgage payments? FDIC head Sheila Bair recommends at least a 25% reduction in mortgage payments.

According to Fox business and The Street FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) head Sheila Bair is asking for at least a 25% reduction in mortgage payments on properties that are going into foreclosure.  She said this at a symposium on “Mortgages and the future of housing finance”.  She appears to be asking for this mortgage rate reduction because of the robo-signing scandal where bank employees sign foreclosure documents without reading them.

The banks are trying to downplay the robo-signing calling it just a failure to dot some “i”s and cross some”t”s but I think it is much bigger than that.  The banks seem to not care about doing modifications for their borrowers.  They seem to be processing these foreclosures as fast as they can.  The incentives seem be there for them to go through with foreclosures instead of them trying to keep people in their homes.

My clients are having trial modifications declined without notice and for no reason when they are making the payments on time for many months.  Others are being told they cannot afford a lower payment when they are making a higher one.  Each time you call the bank you get a different person who has a different story.  And they continually lose documents that you send them.  That does not sound like an organization that is functioning properly.

Fed chairman Bernake has said that the Fed is working together with the Department of Labor, Treasury, and the FDIC to stem the foreclosure crisis.  Hopefully, with all of these government agencies, something good will come out of this for mortgage holders in default who don’t want to lose their house.  After all they are from the government and they must be here to help.

Bair at the FDIC is asking for a 25% reduction in your mortgage payment or some “safe harbor” for those who can’t make the payment. Will this get done?  Will something else happen?  We don’t know but stay tuned because there is tremendous political pressure out their for some relief.  The sheer volume of distressed homes is overwhelming and I think everyone realizes that here has to be a solution other than mass foreclosures.

Stay tuned for the next shoe to drop.  I have a feeling its coming soon…..

I am a bankruptcy lawyer practicing bankruptcy law in San Diego.

Please visit my website and blog at:  www.farquharlaw.com