Removing Judgments After the Bankruptcy

If a creditor obtains a judgment against a debtor, that judgment, if filed, becomes a lien against any real property owned by the debtor.  Any such judgment lien against real property can be removed from the property, if the lien impairs an exemption you claim in your bankruptcy.  In New York State, you can only remove a judgment lien against your personal residence.  Debtor’s bankruptcy attorney usually files a motion pursuant to section 522(f) of the Bankruptcy Code.  A typical motion includes a number of attachments such as a copy of the deed, mortgage, current mortgage statement, a recent appraisal of the property, and copies of the judgment filed in the local County Clerk’s office.

Typically,  the debtor is faced with the following situation.  The debtor owns a home with the total equity of less that New York’s homestead exemption, which is currently $50,000 for a single debtor and $100,000 for a married couple filing jointly.   What a $50,000 homestead exemption means is that the debtor can have up to $50,000 of equity in the residence ($100,000 for a married couple) and your home will not be taken or threatened by the bankruptcy trustee or other creditors.   If there are judgments against the debtor, they are viewed as impairing debtor’s exemption in the property and gives the debtor the right to remove them.

If you do not own a residence when you file your bankruptcy, you do not need to set aside the judgment in the County Clerk’s office, but the underlying debts are discharged regardless whether the judgment is removed.  This may become a a problem if you purchase (or inherit) real property after your bankruptcy.  In that situation, even though there is no actual lien against the newly acquired property, it may appear that there is to someone searching the Clerk’s office.  This is because they will see a judgment against you, and they will see that you own the property.  Without knowing about the intervening bankruptcy and the discharge of the debt that underlies the judgment, they could draw the conclusion that the judgment was in fact a lien against the property.

The problem often surfaces if there comes a time that you want to borrow against, or refinance the property.  Most lenders are sophisticated enough to recognize that any pre-bankruptcy judgments are usually discharged and a typical judgment search, or a title search, in Monroe County will include a check of the Bankruptcy Court’s records.  It is also the reason to keep a copy of your discharge after the bankruptcy so that the lender can have easy verification that the bankruptcy resulted in a discharge.

If you are dealing with debt problems in Rochester, New York; Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a bankruptcy attorney.

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