Past Judgments, Real Estate and New York’s Exemptions

Whenever there are judgments against real property, owned by the debtor who files Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, those judgments, under appropriate circumstances, can be removed by filing 522(f) motion.  The judgment can be removed provided that the debtor’s equity in the property does not exceed $50,000.00 per single filer, or $100,000 per married couple.  The $50,000.00, otherwise known as a homestead exemption, comes from the present version of New York’s Debtor and Creditor Law.  Prior to August 30, 2005, New York’s homestead exemption was $10,000.00 per single filer, or $20,000.00 per married couple.

One issue that was not conclusively resolved in Western New York bankruptcy court was what happened in a situation where the creditor’s judgment was perfected prior to August 30, 2005.  If the judgment was perfected prior to the effective date of the increase in the homestead exemption, would the new homestead exemption or old homestead exemption would apply if the debtor filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

According to the United States Bankruptcy Court Judge Bucki in Buffalo, the applicable homestead exemption amount is the new $50,000.00.  In Re Calloway, Judge Bucki held that once the New York statute was amended, the homestead exemption amount became $50,000.00, and it would apply regardless of the date it was perfected.  Judge Bucki wrote that to hold otherwise, would disregard the meaning of the statute and its interpretation under New York law.  Specifically, he wrote that “C.P.L.R. § 5206 was immediately changed to provide that a homestead “not exceeding fifty thousand dollars in value above liens and encumbrances, owned and occupied as a principal residence, is exempt from application to the satisfaction of a money judgment, unless the judgment was recovered wholly for the purchase price thereof.””

Pursuant to the Debtor and Creditor Law § 282, the debtor has exercised her right to exempt her property from the bankruptcy estate.  Therefore, pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §522(f), the debtor may now avoid judgment liens that impair a homestead not exceeding $50,000 in value.

Therefore, debtor’s bankruptcy attorney does not need to be concerned with the date when the judgment was perfected.  As with most §522(f) motions, the biggest concern that a lawyer would have is the value of the property and whether debtor’s equity in it does not exceed the homestead exemption.

If you contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, 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 Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.

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