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How Does Bankruptcy Affect Your Mortgage?

April 03, 2024 12-minute read

Author: Kevin Graham


If you’ve explored all of the alternatives and decided to file bankruptcy, it’s important to know your options and how they will impact your existing mortgage or your future ability to obtain home loan financing.

One quick note before moving forward: This resource will cover Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings because these are the ones most commonly utilized by bankruptcy filers, but self-employed people may be able to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Chapter 12 bankruptcy is available to fishermen and farmers. If you qualify for one of these, you may have different options.

While this article is intended to serve as a resource, it’s in no way meant to serve as legal advice. Be sure to consult with a law firm that has bankruptcy attorneys who can discuss options and procedures in your jurisdiction.

What’s The Difference Between Chapter 7 And Chapter 13?

If you’re thinking about filing bankruptcy, it’s important to understand your options. Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy are the bankruptcies that people most frequently seek out.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is also known as total bankruptcy. It’s a wipeout of much (or all) of your outstanding debt. Also, it might force you to sell or liquidate some of your property in order to pay back some of the debt. Chapter 7 is also called “straight” or “liquidation” bankruptcy. Basically, this is the one that straight-up forgives your debts (with some exceptions, of course).

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is more like a repayment plan and less like a total wipeout. With Chapter 13, a borrower files a plan with the bankruptcy court detailing how they will repay their creditors. The borrower will pay some debts in full while paying otherspartially or not at all, depending on what they can afford. Chapter 7 = wipeout. Chapter 13 = plan.

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Filing Bankruptcy With A Mortgage

If you declare bankruptcy, there are established procedures of due process. You don’t automatically lose your house. Nor is your loan accelerated to automatically become due if you’ve been current up to this point on your payments.

Up next, let’s take a look at how bankruptcy affects your current mortgage.

How Does Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Affect My Existing Mortgage?

When you file Chapter 7, your existing property will be deemed exempt or nonexempt. Exempt means you’ll be able to keep the property throughout the bankruptcy process, as long as you can catch up and stay current on your payments.

Nonexempt means you’ll be required to surrender the property or pay its value in cash as a part of the bankruptcy. In some cases, homeowners are allowed to keep nonexempt properties. It all depends on the bankruptcy trustee and how they choose to handle the property.

To understand how Chapter 7 bankruptcy impacts a home mortgage, you must first understand the difference between a loan and a lien.

When you get a mortgage, your mortgage company gives you a loan. The lender lets you borrow money in order to buy a property. When the mortgage company does this, it places a lien on the property. A lien is a right or interest in the property that the lender has until the debt (or loan) is paid in full.

When you file Chapter 7, you’re no longer legally obligated to repay the loan. “Legally obligated” is the key phrase here because Chapter 7 doesn’t get rid of the lien on the property. Your lender still has a right to the property if the debt isn’t paid.

So basically, you don’t have to pay your mortgage. But if you don’t, you will lose your property because your lender will likely enforce the lien they have. If you are able to keep your home as part of Chapter 7, it’s probably a good idea to do everything in your power to keep paying your mortgage loan.

How Are Exemptions Determined In A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Since your house must be considered exempt from the bankruptcy for you to have the most favorable scenario for keeping it, knowing how exemptions are determined is critical. State or federal homestead exemptions determine how your home is handled in a bankruptcy. While specifics will vary by state, here’s how the exemption works.

There’s usually a certain period of time that you must live in the house before it can be considered for an exemption. For example, if you file under the federal statute, you must own the home for 40 months.

The second key determinant for an exemption is the amount of equity you have in the home, which requires knowing your home value. State and federal statutes let you exempt a certain amount of equity from being used by a trustee to pay off creditors and lenders. The exact amount that you can protect will vary from state to state.

Be sure to check the law in your state. Certain states allow you to double the amount of equity exempted if you file for bankruptcy jointly as a married couple.

It’s especially important to remember that if you have so much equity that you fall above the exemption amount, your bankruptcy trustee may choose to sell your home to pay back creditors. They’ll pay you back for any exempted equity following the sale, but you’ll have to find a new home.

In certain situations, you may have the option of reaffirming the debt to avoid losing the house if you continue making your payments. However, it’s best to talk with your bankruptcy attorney and mortgage servicer about your options and how to handle the process.

There are instances where you may have options in deciding which exemption rules apply, so speaking with your bankruptcy attorney is always wise.

What About Chapter 13? What Happens With My Existing Mortgage?

With a chapter 13 bankruptcy, you won’t lose your property. You’ll include details in your repayment plan on how you plan on paying your mortgage. In most cases, an automatic stay is issued once Chapter 13 is filed. An automatic stay means that creditors must stop collection efforts.

The stay was designed to temporarily halt foreclosure and stop repossession of homes regardless of what stage the foreclosure proceedings are in. For homeowners with too much equity to qualify for a homestead exemption in their jurisdiction, this is an advantage of a Chapter 13 filing.

There are a couple of important caveats to be aware of here: First, you must stay current on any mortgage payments that are due after the filing. If you’re behind on your payments, you can include missed payments in your reorganization plan, but you have to make sure you pay all these debts back by the end of your plan timeline.

Can You Get A Mortgage While In Bankruptcy?

The short answer to this question is no. All major lenders and mortgage investors require that the bankruptcy be either discharged or dismissed before application. Moreover, many loan types require a waiting period before you can even apply.

Getting A Mortgage After Bankruptcy

You may not be able to get a mortgage during bankruptcy, but you can get one after bankruptcy if you otherwise qualify. Nonconforming loans like those from government agencies may not even have a waiting period.

Next up, learn what you need to know if you’re trying to buy a new house or refinance your current home after a bankruptcy.

Before diving into specifics around guidelines, it’s also worth noting in general that a bankruptcy of any kind has a major negative impact on your credit. It’s not impossible to move forward and get a mortgage down the line, but you may have some recovery to do. A secured credit card or credit builder loan can help. Discover the keys to buying a house with bad credit.

How Long Do I Have To Wait After Chapter 7 To Get A New Mortgage?

Most reputable lenders, including Rocket Mortgage®, won’t consider you for financing until 2 years after the Chapter 7 bankruptcy has been discharged. If you find a lender who will consider you prior to 2 years, make sure you are fully aware of all the terms and conditions included in your mortgage. Scrutinize the details and look at all the costs to ensure you’re not being scammed.

It’s important to note that your options for a mortgage will be limited after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. FHA and VA loans require a 2-year waiting period prior to application after the bankruptcy has been discharged or dismissed. If you’re getting a conventional loan, you have to wait 4 years after discharge or dismissal before applying. Our Jumbo Smart loans have a 7-year waiting period following discharge or dismissal.

How Long Do I Have To Wait After Chapter 13 To Get A New Mortgage?

Rocket Mortgage and other lenders may give you the option of getting an FHA or VA loan as long as the Chapter 13 bankruptcy is discharged or dismissed before you apply.

If you’re looking to apply for a conventional loan, it matters whether your bankruptcy was discharged or dismissed. In the event of a Chapter 13 discharge, the discharge date must be at least 2 years prior to the date credit is pulled and a minimum of 4 years since the filing.

If the bankruptcy was dismissed, there’s a 4-year waiting period until you can have your credit pulled for a new conventional mortgage.

Finally, jumbo loans still have a 7-year waiting period before you can apply.

Waiting Periods For Other Bankruptcies

While the legal implications behind debt discharge or dismissal outside of Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy are beyond the scope of this article, you should know the waiting period for getting a new mortgage if you’ve filed Chapter 11 or 12 bankruptcyin the past.

For Chapter 11 bankruptcies, you can get a mortgage through the FHA or VA as long as you otherwise qualify and the bankruptcy was discharged or dismissed 2 years prior to application. The waiting period for conventional loans and jumbo loans is 4 years and 7 years, respectively.

For a Chapter 12 bankruptcy, conventional loan policy again differentiates between discharge and dismissal. If the bankruptcy is discharged, it must happen more than 2 years prior to application, and it must be filed more than 4 years ago. When the bankruptcy is dismissed, the waiting period is 4 years.

With an FHA or VA loan, the bankruptcy only needs to be discharged or dismissed before you apply.

Filing for bankruptcy is a big decision with a lot of implications for your current and future financing. Make sure you discuss your options with a lawyer or your financial adviser before you stop making payments or file for bankruptcy.

Mortgage Bankruptcy Alternatives

Before going through a bankruptcy, consider whether that’s what you actually need and keep in mind that credit history consequences can be enormous – even including a nearly 250-point decrease if you have a 780 FICO® Score. Because bankruptcy stays on your credit report and each credit bureau reports it for 7 – 10 years, it should really be the option of last resort.

The credit score drop also means that when you do requalify for a mortgage, you may have a hard time getting competitive mortgage rates compared to others with a similar down payment or equity amount but no bankruptcy. Let’s look at the alternatives.

If You’re Having Trouble With Your Mortgage Payment

It’s probably best to start by discussing what to do if you’re having trouble with your mortgage –  many homeowners’ single biggest monthly expense. If you find yourself struggling, you have a few options for mortgage help.

One potential outcome of loss mitigation is a mortgage modification, which involves changing the terms of your mortgage to incorporate missed payments into the balance.

If you’ve looked at your financial situation with your servicer and can’t afford to make any kind of payment, one option might be a short sale. In this scenario, you might know you can’t sell your home for what you owe on your mortgage. However, if you can prove hardship, your lender might be willing to let you do a short sale where the mortgage company works with you to sell the property for less than it’s worth.

Depending on state law, a lender may be able to go to court and get a judgment against you for the difference between how much money the property sale generates and how much you actually owe, so it’s best to be aware of this.

Finally, your lender could approve a deed in lieu of foreclosure. Under this arrangement, you sign the property over to your lender and they then sell the home. In exchange for keeping the home in good shape, your lender may forgive some or all of the difference between what you actually owe and what the property can sell for.

Although these options still have a negative impact on your credit score and you could lose your home, the credit effect isn’t as drastic as it would be with a foreclosure or bankruptcy.

The drawback of these options is that your lender doesn’t have to approve anything. They could insist on foreclosing on your home. However, generally, lenders and mortgage servicers like to do everything they can to help you stay in your home. If that’s not possible, they’ll work with you to find the next best outcome.

Lenders will want to see evidence of hardship, so be prepared to give a full account of your financial situation. To that end, it’s a good idea to be able to show the cause (e.g., permanent or temporary loss of income or high medical bills). Your lender will also ask for bank and credit card statements to make sure you’ve really tried to cut unnecessary items from your budget.

If you’re a Rocket Mortgage client having trouble making your mortgage payment, you can apply for assistance online with our Application for Success.

Negotiating With Other Creditors

While your mortgage is significant, it’s obviously not your only bill. Other lenders and creditors may work to negotiate with you if you can go through the process of proving hardship. If you can come to an agreement, you may be able to settle your debt, even if it’s less than what you owe.

It can be tempting to let unsecured debt default, but doing this will really hurt your credit score. Instead, we suggest working something out. Paying something may make a creditor more receptive to giving you some debt relief.

There’s still a credit ding that comes along with having an account that’s paid as agreed rather than being paid in full, but it’s better than an account that goes to collections or charge-offs. Some money is better than no money, and it does help lessen the effect on your credit score.

Bankruptcy And Mortgage FAQs

We’ve gone over the biggest pieces of the puzzle, but there are other considerations around bankruptcy when it comes to your mortgage. Let’s take a quick look at a few of them.

Does bankruptcy discharge mortgage debt?

The answer to this question really depends heavily on the type of bankruptcy being filed. We’ll go over the scenarios for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy because these are the most common, but if you have any questions, please consult your bankruptcy attorney.

We referred to Chapter 7 above as the “wipeout” bankruptcy because you’re relieved of your responsibility for the debt. However, if you want to keep your home and car, you’ll need to keep your mortgage and car loans. If you don’t stay current on your payments, your mortgage lender can foreclose, and the car can be repossessed.

Chapter 13 bankruptcies are about reorganization, so you can use this type of bankruptcy to pay back debts according to the timeline in your plan while staying current on any mortgage payments after the bankruptcy is filed. Unlike Chapter 7, you’re still responsible for the debt under Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

How do bankruptcies affect a joint mortgage?

If one person files for bankruptcy, this can have an impact if you both are on the mortgage. There are instances where one person’s bankruptcy can cause issues with keeping the home, even if more than one of you is on the mortgage. To be fully apprised of what can happen, it’s best to speak with your attorney.

Do bankruptcies affect second mortgages?

Second mortgages and home equity lines of credit (HELOC) are also impacted by bankruptcies. If you have a second mortgage or HELOC, you’re not responsible for it under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but you’re required to keep paying on it if you want to keep the house without a problem.

Matters become a little more complex with a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you can prove that your existing equity isn’t enough to cover what you owe on a second mortgage or HELOC, you can present that evidence in bankruptcy court. If a judge agrees, the junior lien taken out after your first mortgage may be stripped off.

It’s worth noting that a lender may fight this, so to give yourself the best chance of success, you may want to get an appraisal before filing for bankruptcy.

The Bottom Line

Bankruptcy isn’t good for your mortgage or any other aspect of your finances. Still, it doesn’t have to be a monetary death sentence. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy wipes out your financial debt, including your mortgage, but you could lose your house. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is more of a reorganization, and you can even catch up on payments as long as these are included in your plan.

Keeping your home in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will largely depend on whether your home is exempt or nonexempt. Chapter 13 bankruptcy lets you keep your home as long as you make payments in accordance with your plan. If you do get to keep your home, make sure your payments stay current.

It’s possible to get a mortgage after bankruptcy is dismissed or discharged. Some loan types require a waiting period after the bankruptcy is over, while others don’t. It’s important to be able to rebuild your credit in any case before applying again. Bankruptcy has a long-term effect on your credit report and score.

Finally, because bankruptcy involves a major credit hit, you should consider all possible alternatives. These include negotiations with creditors. If you’re having trouble making your mortgage payment, you might consider applying for a modification, short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure.

If you’ve gone through a bankruptcy and feel like you have your credit in good shape to buy or refinance again, check out our mortgage calculator to see what you can afford and apply online with us today. Feel free to give one of our Home Loan Experts a call at (833) 326-6018.

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Kevin Graham

Kevin Graham is a Senior Blog Writer for Rocket Companies. He specializes in economics, mortgage qualification and personal finance topics. As someone with cerebral palsy spastic quadriplegia that requires the use of a wheelchair, he also takes on articles around modifying your home for physical challenges and smart home tech. Kevin has a BA in Journalism from Oakland University. Prior to joining Rocket Mortgage, he freelanced for various newspapers in the Metro Detroit area.

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