Many homeowners have found themselves in the position of owing money on a debt which they simply can not pay back, or have been sued by someone and failed to respond to the law suit. When this happens, the Plaintiff often will attempt to collect on their judgment by putting a lien on the homeowner’s property.
Many of my bankruptcy client’s have come to me with just such a situation. This becomes an issue after a consumer’s unsecured debts have been discharged in bankruptcy. The reason is simple; the homeowner has a lien against their house post bankruptcy and they do not owe any money to the lien holder.
After a Chapter 7 discharge, a debtor may avoid a judicial lien by motion to the Court. To the extent lien impairs an exemption to which the debtor otherwise would have been entitled under the Bankruptcy laws.
As a result, the bankruptcy court will grant a Chapter 7 debtor’s motion seeking to avoid a judicial lien if debtor’s equity in the property is less than the amount protected under the Massachusetts Homestead Act, which currently stands at $500,000 in value for the land and building, M.G.L. c. 188 § 1, and when the creditor’s lien fully impaired the debtor’s equity in the property. In re Lyons, 355 B.R. 287 (2006).
So what is the gist of all of this legal speak? When the collateral has no value, the creditor has no claim against it because it will be treated as unsecured, and thus the debtor may discharge that lien.