Sunday, May 25, 2008

Back Door Cram Down on 2nd T.D. Refi [11 U.S.C. 1322 (b)]

A lot has been written by me and others about How To Walk Away From Your Home. My blog has become more of a self-help guide to walking away in California. I get at least 25 calls and emails a week from people who want to get out from their underwater homes, but are scared they will be liable for the unpaid mortgage debt. As I previously explained, California homeowners who used 80/20 loans to purchase their homes and have not refinanced the second mortgage, can walk away without paying anything.Once again it’s the 80/20 loan to the rescue.

This beautiful piece of financial engineering genius (you really need to click on that link, it’s hilarious!) has found yet another way to help distressed home owners. And not just in California, this trick works all over the United States.

The trick is called a “Chapter 13 Lien Strip” but I like to call it the “Back Door Cram Down.” You may have read about the proposed mortgage “Cram Down” legislation that would allow Chapter 13 judges to reduce or “Cram Down” mortgages balances to fair market value in a Chapter 13 case. This legislation has zero chance of passing until a new election and Congress are seated next January.

Instead, we are “Cramming Down” second mortgages using the old Bankruptcy code section 1322 which states:

“Contents of plan

(b) The plan may–

(2) modify the rights of holders of secured claims, other than a claim secured only by a security interest in real property that is the debtor’s principal residence, or of holders of unsecured claims, or leave unaffected the rights of holders of any class of claims.”

What’s not obvious about this code section is a loan is not “secured” by your personal residence if there is no value or equity in your home that would go to the lender if the home was sold. That means the loan can be converted to unsecured or the lien “stripped” from the house by “modifying the rights of holders of secured claims.” This turns it into unsecured debt, like credit card debt, which can be discharged!!!! This is why I call it a “Back Door” cram down because we are cramming down the second mortgage to unsecured status.

Here is an example. You bought your home in 2006 for $500k with 100% financing using an 80/20 loan. So your first mortgage is 80% or $400k and your second mortgage is 20% or $100k. The market is down more than 20% from its peak and your house is now only worth $375k. This means if the house was sold, the first mortgage would take all $375k and the second mortgage would get nothing. In this case the second mortgage is “wholly unsecured” and the second clause of section 1322(b) does not apply, so we can modify the rights of the second mortgage holder and turn it into unsecured debt.

What happens to the now unsecured stripped off second mortgage? It gets paid in your Chapter 13 plan but only after your other secured debts are paid. Secured debts are the first mortgage, your property taxes, and your car payments. And because a Chapter 13 plan lasts only 3-5 years (usually 5) a whole lot of that unsecured debt does not get paid. At the end of 5 years, most unsecured debts (not student loans, back income taxes, or family support payments) are discharged so you don’t have to repay them.

So at the end of 5 years, you are left with just your just mortgage payment on your house. Your cars and your back property taxes are paid off, your student loans and back income taxes are paid down, but your second mortgage and your credit card debt is gone! Beautiful isn’t it? God bless the 80/20! It just keeps on giving


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