Principle Reductions: Wipe Out Your 2nd Mortgage With Bankruptcy


Millions of American homeowners are now upside-down on their home mortgage and they are looking for a way out. In some areas like the Inland Empire of California, local homeowners have seen values drop 30-50% and many are making a “business” decision to walk away without ever exploring ways to save their home. If you have decided to walk away from your home and think you have no other option but to bail on your upside-down house, you may want to read this.

Wouldn’t it be much easier to save your home if you only had a first mortgage and no other payments? What if you could effectively wipe out $50,000, $100,000 or $200,000 of what you owe on your mortgage? Also, if the market turns around, think of all the equity you could build back up years from now? For homeowners who have taken out a second mortgage on their home, facing financial difficulties can be particularly challenging. In most cases, a second mortgage reduces your home equity to a very small margin leaving you vulnerable to the whims of your lenders. In cases where real estate values have declined, as we are seeing in most markets today, there are strategies that you can use to protect yourself from excessive debt. Current bankruptcy law allows judges to approve the loan modifications of the terms of certain debts, namely auto and student loans and second-home mortgages. In the case of second mortgages, if the value of the property falls below the loan amount, debtors potentially could reduce the balance of the loan to equal the current value of the property.

Stripping the Lien, Cram Down or Strip Down

When a judge removes the second mortgage during bankruptcy proceedings it is referred to as “stripping” the lien, a“cram down” or “strip down.” This can happen if the loan is secured by other collateral that is part of the bankruptcy filing or if the home is not your principal residence or even if the payment structure on the second mortgage falls heavily during the bankruptcy filing period itself.

Here is a Lien Stripping Example:

  • Home is worth $200,000.
  • The first mortgage is $200,000.
  • A second mortgage (or in certain states, a deed of trust) for $100,000.
  • Lenders are only secured up to the value of the property. In this case the first lender is secured by the property value.
  • The second lender has nothing securing their lien. They are unsecured because the property has no value left over from the first lien. In a Chapter 13, you can lien strip the second lender.
  • The second lien is treated as an unsecured creditor.
  • Most likely the second lender will not be able to collect on the mortgage after the bankruptcy discharge and the homeowners (debtors) still get to keep the house.
  • The homeowner would not even have to pay the lien when they sell the house.
  • Now, THIS IS A POWERFUL tool for homeowners who are underwater!

Additional liens on your home beyond your initial mortgage, whether you have taken a second mortgage or just another related lien, could be negated in the case of a Chapter 13 personal bankruptcy filing.

Liens can be stripped off of the debtor’s assets in Chapter 11 or Chapter 13 when there is not enough equity in the asset, after deducting senior liens from the property’s current market value, to secure the unsecured in whole or in part, where the lien exceeds the value of the debtor’s property. Section 506 of the Bankruptcy Code acknowledges that a lien is only a secured claim to the extent there is value in the asset to which it attaches. To the extent that the claim exceeds the value of the collateral, that portion of the claim is unsecured. In Chapter 11 or Chapter 13, even voluntary liens, such as mortgages and security interests, can be stripped down to the value of the collateral, with the exception of voluntary liens secured only by the debtor’s residence. Congress is currently considering changes to bankruptcy law allowing the modification of home mortgages.

Despite the general rule, two exceptions may apply so as to allow lien stripping of a mortgage on a personal residence: loans based on a home plus other collateral. Lien stripping is prevented only when the lien is secured “solely” by a personal residence. Court decisions have made it clear that when the debtor has given other collateral (in addition to the personal residence; e.g., office equipment) as security for the mortgage, lien stripping will be allowed. Thus, if you will be taking out a second mortgage or refinancing your home, you should consider offering additional collateral, such as furniture, as security for the loan. This can be done under the guise of seeking better terms from the lender, such as a lower interest rate.

PhotobucketMany (but not all) bankruptcy courts follow a rule that makes a second mortgage totally unsecured if the first mortgage balance equals or exceeds the value of the personal residence. This exception will not apply in the case of a refinancing of a mortgage, since in a refinancing the new mortgage pays off the first mortgage. The exception is predicated on there being two distinct mortgages (a first and a second mortgage). For this reason, if you have the option of financing your business through a second mortgage or refinancing your first mortgage, the second mortgage may be the better choice, especially where the amount of the first mortgage is close to the value of the home.

In addition, remember that the general rule applies only to a lien secured solely by a personal residence. Thus, lien stripping will be not allowed for a mortgage on a building used in a business.

While there is no assurance of what the courts will decide, depending on the terms of the original loans as well as the details of your filing, there are options for home owners with multiple liens on their home. This is because most additionally mortgages are unsecured, especially in the modern context of depressed home values. While inflated home appraisals may have allowed you to take out an additional mortgage, it’s possible that your original home loan is now upside-down. When the real estate market was much more active, lenders often side stepped the 20% down payment rule by allowing the borrower to get private mortgage insurance. As a further side step this rule of thumb, many borrowers took out a second mortgage to cover the 20% payment which led to the additional lien on the home. Given current market conditions, many buyers ended up with net negative financing, or negative equity, before they even made their first payment (and often did not have to provide any collateral).

Within Chapter 13 Bankruptcy law, section 11 USC 1322, can potentially allow you to forgo your second mortgage, under certain circumstances. If your second lien on the whole is unsecured, then when the value of your home drops below the first mortgage deed of trust, the second becomes wholly under secured. This second loan can be negated through a Chapter 13 filing.

The lien stripping program is available for individuals desiring to reorganize their debt using Federal Laws under Title 11 of the United States Code. The mortgage removal program can only be used in the context of reorganization, often referred to as Chapter 13(see below).

If you own a home with more than one mortgage, you may be able to completely remove or “avoid” the second and subsequent junior mortgages from your home and county records, thus leaving only the first original mortgage!

To qualify for this defense, the court will generally require objective evidence that the home is appraised for less than the value of the initial mortgage, which can be obtained through a county property appraisal or through a third party certified appraisal that is accepted by the court. In an environment where home prices in most markets have fallen at least 30%, many borrowers may qualify.

PhotobucketAttorney Pernell Agdeppa has much to say about this bankruptcy defense for homeowners: “Homeowners can file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and can pay the various filing charges/fees (to strip a lien we must file a complaint against the second or junior lien holder(s)).In my opinion, the most critical aspect of this process is to carefully qualify each potential client to determine whether bankruptcy is their best alternative and make them aware of its lasting credit impacts.”

“While removing junior debt from their properties will help them financially, clients must also be capable of staying within their financial plan to fulfill their obligations of their Chapter 13 filing.”

Tax liens can also be stripped off in reorganization proceedings (Chapters 11 and 13) to the extent that the lien does not attach to equity in property. Tax liens can’t be avoided in Chapter 7 on the grounds that they impair exemptions; if the tax is dischargeable in the Chapter 7 filing, the bankruptcy court can determine the amount of the lien that is secured at the time of the filing. Payment of that sum entitles the debtor to the release of the lien.

Ultimately, working with a qualified tax and real estate attorney or experienced real estate bankruptcy lawyer will help you present your case to the Federal Bankruptcy Court, so it’s important to get qualified legal advice in advance regarding any filings.

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Posted in Mortgage News | 26 Comments

26 Responses to “Principle Reductions: Wipe Out Your 2nd Mortgage With Bankruptcy”

  1. Annmarie Fontanez says:

    I am quite desperate. I have a first with aurora Loan and second morgage with Countrywide. I filed a chap 7 bankruptcy on 8/08 and was discharge 1/09. My first loan balance is 297k home value 388K. Second mortgage 100k owe 103k after paying for one year. Have not paid since bankruptcy began to present. Do I qualify for the wipe out of the second mortgage due to the bankruptcy?

  2. C. Brunetti says:

    We definitely qualify for ‘in over our head.’ My husband and I took out a second mortgage on our home to help pay for our kids’ college (having twins means have two tuitions for four years, at the same time!) My husband got laid off about two months ago and there is no way that we can handle one mortgage, let alone two. We don’t want to file for bankruptcy but we do not see any other option. Do we have to get some sort of Chapter 13 appraisal for our home in order to wipe out the second mortgage?

  3. Angela Brown says:

    I am quite desperate. I have a first with aurora Loan and second morgage with HomeComings Financial. I have tried to get a loan modification with no luck let alone a offer. I would like to know if a chapter 13 bankruptcy is for me. My first loan balance is 318k home value 190k. Second mortgage 50k. Ater paying for 5yrs ontime. I have not paid since November. I really want to keep my home. If I could just get the payments reduced I could do this for 30yrs. My other debt is about $300mo..

  4. Kay Ward says:

    We purchase our home in May 2006 when my husband’s employer relocated us to California. We have a 1st and 2nd secured by our home and a not to employer for a 3rd that was secured by “future earnings” due in 5 years,for the downpayment where they requested to be 3rd on deed but never filed it. The employer fired my husband due to economy in March 2008 and said they would expect payment on note inside the time frame of the note agreement. My husband has finally found employment again but we cannot afford the house at these payments and have been trying to work with Mortgage Services with note owned by Wells Fargo since November of 2008. We have been turned down previously for loan mod. and not have another packet they have been reviewing since January while keeping the forclosure going. I have not received any official notices but call 2X a week getting a different person each time. Tonight I FINALLY recieved a call from person who had the house appraised for a short sale and then was surprised we wanted a loan mod. The house we purchased for $1.2M is now worth $790K and we owe $1.1M with the 3 loans. The rep is going to submit another loan mod but wants 1 month and bring current scenario with no interest rate lowering…we are at 6.8%. I feel we shoudl file bankruptcy so we can take the big hit once and for all and maybe “cram down” the loan so we can keep the house. Any advice?

  5. Kathy says:

    I’d say while the rate sucks take the rate only if they give you the principal reduction. Then when things are better get out from under. Stay out of banko if you can.

    Unless you have to wipe out other debts that would make it difficult to keep the paymnts up once you’ve modificed them…In this case I’d do a chp 7 if I was current on mortgage…Just my 2 cents…

  6. MyLee Huynh says:

    I am looking into chapter 13 to save my home and get us out of the water. We owed 1st mortage $615,000, 2nd mortg $240,000 current home value $850,000. Credit cards debt $50,000 all of this because medical bills and husband out of work for 4 years. April will be first month defaulting on both mortages. Will chapter 13 strip 2nd mortg?

  7. Rafael says:

    I have a first with country wide and second morgage with bank of america. I filed a chap 7 bankruptcy on 12/08 and was dischared 3/09. My first loan balance is 291k home value 258K. Second mortgage 168k. I am past due 2 months on my first and second mortgage. Do I qualify for a chapter 13 to wipe out of the second mortgage?

  8. Gregory Gibbons says:

    In NY, is it possible to have my first (and only) mortgage (a HELOC) discharged in a bankruptcy ?

  9. I filed for Chapter 7 on 5/22/09 and as of 12/26/09 have not been discharged. I was instructed in the early stages of filing that there was not an option for including my 2nd in the bankruptcy. I have been currently doing research through an organization known as NACA to possibly restructure my 1st with no real understanding as to what might happen with my existing 2nd. I just recently became aware of the “stip down” possibility and would like to know if it has been successful in California in regards to a Chapter 7 filing? My specific situation is a 1st with B of A for $673,749.00 fixed 30 yr. @ 6.875% 2nd with Green tree (transfered from B of A just recently, both service loan for investor) for $183,030.00 20 yr. balloon @ 8.250%. Home value is 600k to 650k. I haven’t made a payment on either since February 2009. Can I strip the 2nd through my Chapter 7? Discharge should occure within next 30 days.

  10. Nicole says:

    I received my discharge on 12/9/2009. I have a first mortgage for 208K and a second for 51k my house is only worth 217k according to my papers. I filed chapter 7 and was wondering if I filed on all my unsecured debt including the 43k the remainder of the loan that is unsecured. If this is the case do I still need to pay on my second? what happens with the 8K that will still be owing on the end do I modify with them? please help my attorney is not helping me and I need to figure this out fast.

  11. Phyllis says:

    I filed Chapter 7 in November 2008 in Michigan. I have a 1st mortgage that I reaffirmed and have a balance of $103,000. I have a 2nd mortgage of approx. $40,000 that I did not reaffirm and it was included in bankruptcy. My home has been de-valued with the economic crisis to approx $129,000. My attorney told me I had no incentive to pay the 2nd mortgage at this point. What happens if I sell my house? I would like to think that the 2nd mortgage is gone forever like the credit cards. Can you lend any information to settle my mind?

  12. Nancie says:

    I have two houses. Can I wipe out the second on one home with a chapter 7?

  13. Juan says:

    I have my first and 2nd mortgage with Aurora loan, my 1st loan was modified but now I don’t know what to with my 2nd which I haven’t paid for a year. 1st loan is $ 311,000.00 and 2nd loan is 73,000 plus 12500 late payments. The house only appraised 202,000. A chapter 13 be the right way to go to wipe out my 2nd loan we do wanna keep the house.

  14. Colleen says:

    I have a 1st mortgage of 176k. My 2nd mortgage is 32k. My house recently appraised for 125k. I have been umemployed for almost 2 years and have NEVER been late on my mortgage payments (so far). I am swimming in credit card debt. I am attempting to have my mortage modified by Bank of America. I have consulted a bankruptcy attorney as I’m sure I’m headed there soon. I know I can get rid of my 2nd mortgage if I file Chapter 13. Will filing bankrupty kill any chances of my home mortgage being modified?

  15. chris condo says:

    I live in Dearborn Michigan where property values have been hit pretty hard. Took a pay cut at work a few years ago. The amount on my 1st mortgage is 113,000 and my my 2nd is 28,000. Is it possible to file bankrupsy on the 2nd mortgage?

  16. John Markham says:

    The lien-stripping procedure looks like a system whereby a borrower’s just debt gets transferred from him to the lender or to the lender’s other borrowers. The debt never goes away. It just gets reassigned … relocated. Somebody else, who never got the benefits, pays it. The people orchestrating this process seem not to mind the smell.

    As Yakov Smirnoff used to say in his comedy routine, “What a country!”

  17. Tracy sparks says:

    I was wondering if you think my second mortgage will be wiped out through chapter 13 bankruptcy; I owe $76000 on my 1st morgtage & the proper value is at the most $75000. I owe more on my 2nd mortgage than I do on my 1st, $87000.00; Would they allow the 2nd to be stripped in this case? I live in florida

  18. LDQ says:

    I am trying to find out if a second can be stripped through a Chap 13 filing if the property securing the first and second only exceeds the amount of the first mortgage by 30k or less i.e. the first is ~77K the second is ~117K and zillow and cyberhomes rates the FMV of the property from $63-100K.

    Specifically can the second be modified by the judge or other means down to the surplus FMV of the property after the first has been satisfied?

  19. Cjohnson says:

    I have a small condo financed through HSBC with a variable rate of 7.99%. I am currently in a Chapter 13 and paying both my 1st and 2nd on top of the Chapter 13 payment. The condo is valued on Zillow at $70 – $85K, I owe $71000 on the 1st and $17000 on the second. I have one year left on the Chapter 13. Can this chapter be modified at this time to write of the 2nd and quit making that payment? It would make life so much easier.

  20. Lee says:

    I live in New York and have started chapter 7 filing. From what I
    have learned. I can strip my second mortgage. My question is
    will the mortgage company who holds the lien release it with the
    county records ? Will I ever be allowed to sell or do I have to pay
    the second back before I can sell.

  21. vincent says:

    ll be filing Chapter 7 but want to keep my house. I can’t qualify for either 13 or 11…..I have debts that exceed 1.5 million not including my 1st. and 2nd. mortgage….Some of the 1.5 million in debts have been put on my house as crossed collaterial for business loans, lines of credit etc….I want to loan strip them out and off of my house, can this be done in a chapter 7…I’m ok with the 1st and 2nd mortgages they are current….but, want to strip out the other lies…..please advise

  22. sandra decker says:

    My husband is filing a chapter 7, its suppose to be discharged this Monday! We would like to include our second mortgage in this and still keep the house, is this possible? Our lawyer says that loan stripping is no longer done.

    We live in Illinois. We owe $365,000 on both. Loan on first is $300,000. Our home value on zillow is $304,000

  23. Ron says:

    In a chapter 13 filing, a debtor owns a four-unit residential appartment building and lives in one of the units. In regards to his ability to stip away junior liens, will the court regard the building as a personal residence or as businessis property. Thanks for your replay.

  24. My husband & I filed bankrupcy last Nov. We represented ourselves & had the bankruptcy confirmed by the judge. Our payment plan is in place. We are now trying to strip the second mortgage. The judge has written us that the way we presented the court with our Motion to Lien Strip they cannot accept. What is the protocol to get this done without paying an attorney?

  25. Karl says:

    We filed BK-7 and it was granted about 15 months ago. We did not include the BoA home equity loan. We received a loan mod. with W.Fargo 1 yr ago. Here are the current numbers:

    1st 295K, 7 years left on a 15y note, 2.25% (goes up to about 4.5% in steps) $3940/monthly including escrow (tax etc.)

    Home equity loan, 350K (+about 10K of back interest etc.)interest only (so far) var 2.5%; original payment $720/month; currently making 200$ per OK from BoA for the last 12 months. No notice of foreclosure to date.
    Home value: 438K (zillow).

    Is it possible to get a stripped down loan with BoA? Thanks

  26. Myrna says:

    I have 2 mortgages. My initial one is with VNB and I am going through the HAMP program and got this mortgage reduced. However, my second one is with GMAC and I have requested that they reduce the payment and they are unwilling to budge on decreasing my payments.

    Needless to say the home is only worth what I am currently paying VNB so is it possible that I could get my second mortgage removed? If so how?