• How a $140 Sewer Bill Could Cost New Jersey Plumber More Than $50,000


    If it was not surprising enough for 60-year-old Dominick Vulpis and his wife to learn last December that they had lost their home to foreclosure, imagine the shock when they learned exactly why: a four-year-old $140 sewer bill.

    NBC News reported on July 24, 2012, that the foreclosure was the result of a tax lien (see explanation in video above) his hometown of Middletown, New Jersey, had sold to a third-party investor. While NBC noted that this is “an increasingly common practice as cash-strapped cities and towns try to raise badly needed revenues to close widening budget gaps,” it also mentioned that situations like the Vulpis’ are rare.

    “It was never brought to my attention until it was too late and we were served with papers saying we had to move out of our house,” Vulpis told NBC. “I may pay a bill late, but I pay them. I’m not trying to beat anyone for $140.”

    NBC also noted that the National Consumer Law Center estimated that local governments raised nearly $15 billion through tax lien sales in 2010. Vulpis did manage to get the foreclosure overturned by rolling the bill into his mortgage balance, but NBC said that the total bill could exceed $50,000 when combined with attorney fees and added interest.

    While a majority of tax lien sales were for unpaid assessments on failed or unfinished commercial developments, such sales still land more people in foreclosure proceedings. A struggling economy has left more homeowners seeking foreclosure help , and this week we will focus on some of the pains caused by foreclosure. If you are facing foreclosure, you may be able to delay the process by filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy or possibly even save your home by filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy . Contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 to see how our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers can help you.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorneys

  • Famous Bankruptcies: Ulysses S. Grant

    As millions of Americans consider which candidate they think is the best man to be president, this week’s famous bankruptcy will look back on one of the former presidents that numerous polls rank as one of the worst. The administration of Ulysses S. Grant was marred by numerous scandals such as Black Friday in 1869 and the Whiskey Ring in 1875. “My failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent,” Grant wrote to Congress at the conclusion of his second term.

    The two years Grant spent traveling the world with his wife and dining with foreign dignitaries at the end of his second term depleted most of his savings. At the suggestion of his son, Buck, Grant placed nearly all of his financial assets into a partnership with Ferdinand Ward. However, Ward mismanaged and embezzled the money, bankrupting the company and leaving Grant’s family deep in debt.

    Suffering from throat cancer, Grant struck a publishing deal with Mark Twain to use the memoirs to repay his debts and provide for his family after his death. The terminally ill former president worked tirelessly on the project in the final year of his life and finished his autobiography just days before his death. The book received widespread praise upon publication with Twain calling the book “a great, unique and unapproachable literary masterpiece.” “There is no higher literature than these modest, simple Memoirs,” Twain said. “Their style is at least flawless, and no man can improve upon it.”

    The corruption that occurred on Grant’s watch during his time in office was unprecedented at the time and has certainly contributed to his low placement in historical rankings. However, the memoirs as well as his advocacy for civil and human rights-most notably toward American Indians and African Americans-during Reconstruction have helped his reputation improve over time.

    Despite the scandals that plagued his time in office, Grant’s efforts and the methods employed to pay off his debt before his death can be an inspiration to anybody about to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy . If you are looking for a fresh start financially, contact my firm to schedule a consultation to see how I can help.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer

  • Three Car Options in Chapter 7

    On Monday, I touched on cramming down a car loan in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy . Today, I wanted to touch on the three car options available to debtors who are filing Chapter 7 :

    • Surrender – This option is typically beneficial if you owe more than your vehicle is worth or if your car is too expensive. Surrendering a car will mean you no longer owe the remaining balance on the loan. The major drawback to surrender is that you will obviously have to find another mode of transportation. Furthermore, the bankruptcy filing will also result in higher interest rates through subprime lenders, meaning many people who surrender their vehicles in Chapter 7 cases have to settle for vehicles that are not as nice as the ones they gave up.
    • Reaffirmation – Instead of surrendering a car, this option allows you to continue to be responsible for a car loan as though you never filed bankruptcy. If you are able to demonstrate that you need the automobile, you can sign an agreement with the lender indicating you will continue paying for the car. However, a debtor reaffirming a car loan becomes liable for the auto loan. This means that if the lender repossesses the vehicle to sell at auction because you miss payments after the bankruptcy discharge, you will be responsible for the deficiency balance and auction fees.
    • Redemption – This is certainly the least used option of the three I have listed here, because it requires you to pay the lender the current value of the car in one lump sum. This can be great in the sense that you keep the car and no longer have to worry about monthly payments, but it can be extraordinarily difficult to come up with the amount needed for the lump sum payment. Furthermore, you also need to agree with the lender on the valuation of the vehicle, which can be easier said than done.

    Have you been thinking about filing bankruptcy, but are concerned about what will happen with your car? If so, you should contact my firm today at (866) 930-7482 to schedule an initial consultation where I can tell you what all of your options are.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorney

  • Cramming Down Car Loans in Chapter 13

    Cars begin to depreciate as soon as they are driven off the lot, so I deal with many clients who end up owing more on an automobile than it is actually worth. However, debtors filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy can reduce that debt to a lower amount by utilizing a “cramdown.” When debtors cram down car loans, they are proposing that lenders get what the car is actually worth instead of the entire loan balance.

    There are, of course, a few requirements in order to cram down a car loan. First, the car must have been purchased at least 910 days (or around 2 ½ years) before you file bankruptcy. Second, the loan must be the loan you used to buy the car.

    The good news for debtors cramming down a car loan in Chapter 13 is that the interest rate on the loan will often be lowered to less than the original rate. Even better, any unpaid balance left after you pay off the value will be wiped out when you get your Chapter 13 discharged.

    It should be noted that you can also cram down mortgages on real estate that is not your principle residence. Cramming down a mortgage also has enormous benefits, but mortgage cramdowns can be even more difficult to get approved than car loan cramdowns. If you are upside-down on either a car loan or a non-residential mortgage-or if both apply in your case-you should contact my firm at (866) 930-7482 today to set up a consultation to see what I can do to help you get a fresh start.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer