Like any other business, community associations are often faced with delinquent owners seeking bankruptcy protection. In fact, as of May 2018, over 9,800 bankruptcies have been filed in Virginia alone. As such, community associations should be aware of the implications of being an unwilling bankruptcy creditor.
Types of Bankruptcies
The two most common types of bankruptcy that impact community associations are a Chapter 7 and a Chapter 13.
The Chapter 7 bankruptcy is commonly referred to as the liquidating bankruptcy and is what most people think of when they hear the term “bankruptcy.” The idea behind a Chapter 7 is that the court assigns a third-party (a trustee) to review the debtor’s assets and exemptions and sell any non-exempt assets to pay the debtor’s debts. Unfortunately, Most of the time, that doesn’t actually happen. Most chapter 7 cases are “no-asset” cases, meaning there are no un-exempt assets for the trustees to sell. In a rare “asset” chapter 7 cases, the trustee will notice creditors by sending a letter asking for creditors to file “proofs of claim.” A proof of claim is a standard form that a creditor fills out listing the amount and type of debt. A proof of claim must also have “proof” attached detailing the basis of the debt. The trustee then classifies the types of debt and pays those debts based on their classification or priority until the funds are depleted. The end result is a chapter 7 discharge which wipes away all qualifying unsecured debt incurred prior to the debtor filing bankruptcy. However, there are debts that survive a chapter 7 discharge including secured debt, priority debt, and non-dischargeable debt. The easy way for community associations to prevent loss of assessments to a chapter 7 discharge is to speak with an attorney as soon as an owner is 30 days delinquent.