Am I Personally Responsible for Business Credit Card Debt?

Male on White BackgroundYou are only personally liable for the debt if you sign as a personal guarantor. 

What is that you ask?  It is someone who ?guarantees? (hence the derivative ?guarantor?) to pay for someone else?s debt should they default on their obligation.  It is quite like a co-signer but normally applies to business debt.

As you know, businesses come and go as the days go by.  It is quite easy to open and close a business; and as many credit card and loan companies understand this, they will often have the owner of the company personally sign as a guarantor on the loan.  This protects the creditor should the business close; this way even if the business itself is not open, there is still a live body that obligated to pay them their monies owed.

The good news is that if you have signed as a personal guarantor on a business credit card or loan and the business has closed, should you file a bankruptcy, you can include that business debt as part of your personal debt to relieve your personal liability on the debt owed.  If the business is still open then the creditor has every legal right to go after the business for the debt owed, but not you personally.

Getting A Newer Vehicle While In A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

If you are currently in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and want to purchase a new vehicle there are several things that must be done. The information below is extremely important to the success of you being able to get a new vehicle so read it very, very carefully. It is critical that you get the court’s permission before going and incurring any debt (loans) on your own. To make the process as clear as possible we have broken it up into five different steps.

The Dangers of Cosigning On A Debt

Should you cosign on a debt for a friend or family?

Cosigning on a debt is almost never recommended. However, it’s a tough decision sometimes when you have friends or family that need you to cosign on a debt to receive the necessary loan. Typically, though, it’s not a good idea to cosign on a debt. Let’s find out why.

What is a cosigner?

Filling out paperworkWhen someone is trying to obtain financing and they do not have the FICO credit score necessary to receive financing on their own, the creditor may request someone else cosign on the debt to receive the desired financing. So what exactly does cosigning mean? If someone cosigns on a debt it means they are agreeing to be responsible for that debt if the original debtor is unable to pay it.

The problem is, if the person who originally needed the loan can no longer pay it then the creditor can go after the cosigner for the debt. The creditor has the same rights to go after the cosigner as they do the primary debtor. It is not uncommon at all to see a codebtor be sued for an uncollectable debt.

Lets take a look at an example:

Dana the daughter needs to get a new vehicle. Her old vehicle has broken down and without a new vehicle she cannot get to her minimum wage job. She goes to a car dealership and after sitting down to sign all of the final paperwork the finance director at the car dealership they tell her they cannot give her financing due to her low credit score. Dana had a repossession three years ago that appears on her credit. They tell her she will need to get a a cosigner to receive the necessary financing. Stressed and needing a vehicle Dana calls Molly, her mother, to explain the situation. Molly the mom wants the best for her daughter Dana and knows she has to have a vehicle. Dana promises her mom that she will make the payments. Hesitantly Molly cosigns on a car loan for $30,000.

Fast forward and a year later Dana has made all of the payments on the vehicle. Molly barely even remembers that she cosigned on the debt. Unfortunately though, Dana ends up losing her job and can no longer afford the monthly car payment. To ensure the car is not repossessed again Molly, Dana’s mother, agrees to make the payment until Dana gets a new job. Months and months pass by and Dana is unable to find a job. Molly has used her savings and even pulled from her retirement account to try to continue to make the payments. Eventually Dana’s moved back in with her mother and Molly has exhausted all of her savings and retirement funds and they get behind on the car. The financing company eventually repossesses the vehicle and sells it at an auction for $5,000. The problem is, they still owed $20,000 on the vehicle. The finance company then tried, unsuccessfully, to collect on the deficiency balance of $15,000. Because of that, they filed a lawsuit against both Dana and Molly and eventually place a lien on Molly’s house and add interest, late fees, penalties and attorney’s fees to the amount owed.

The creditor could potentially try to repossess Molly’s other vehicle (which is paid off), go after money in her bank accounts and even foreclose on her house (which has a lot of equity). As time passes the creditor continues to add extra fees to the amount that is owed. Eventually, Molly has to file bankruptcy because she owes on the deficiency on the vehicle that she cosigned on and owes a lot in taxes because she had to withdraw a lot from her retirement account.

So what have we learned?

Don’t cosign on a debt with someone else. The person needing a cosigner may have the best of intentions. In our example above, Dana certainly did not want her mother to go through the stress and worry of having creditors come after her. The reason a finance company requires a cosigner is because they believe there is a good chance the person seeking the financing won’t be able to make the necessary payments. If this were to happen, creditors don’t care that you cosigned just to help out. Instead, they will come after you as if you were the one who originally failed to make the payments.

How Long Does Bankruptcy Ruin Your Credit?

If you are considering getting a clean slate and filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in North Carolina, you have probably heard that bankruptcy will “ruin your credit for 10 years.”

Fortunately, this is not true – as long as you are taking the necessary steps to care for your credit post-bankruptcy.

White Girl on White BackgroundHow Long Will It Be On My Credit Report?

What is true is that when you file bankruptcy, the bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for seven to ten years. This means that for at least seven years from the date your bankruptcy case is filed, bankruptcy will show on your report. After seven years from the date you filed, you can contact the credit bureau to request the bankruptcy be removed, but they are not required to remove it until ten years have passed.

However, just because a bankruptcy shows on your credit report, does not mean your credit is ruined for ten years.

How Long Will My Credit Score Be Hurt?

Your credit score will likely be impacted by the bankruptcy for the first two or three years immediately following your bankruptcy filing. After that time, it is important for you to work on rebuilding your credit, even though the bankruptcy is still showing on your credit report. By working on rebuilding your credit while the bankruptcy is still showing, you are taking important steps to ensure your credit is not “ruined” for ten years. If you are in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, however, be sure to talk to your attorney before you incur any new credit or debt.

After two or three years following your bankruptcy filing, if you have been working on rebuilding your credit, you will begin to see your credit score increase again. It is important to remember that the bankruptcy is similar to a wound – it will not heal overnight, and it takes diligence, time, and care to completely heal. Eventually, that wound will turn into a scar and can still be seen but is not painful. Just like after two or three years the bankruptcy will still be visible on your report but will not have a big impact on your actual FICO score. By caring for your credit and taking the necessary steps to rebuild it during the seven to ten years it is reflected on your credit report, you will ensure that the bankruptcy gives you a true clean slate – and that it does not ruin your credit for ten years.

Just be patient, and remember that your score will not improve overnight. You will need to review any and all post-bankruptcy credit offers carefully, to be sure the interest rate is not outrageous – you certainly don’t want to end up with a debt that will haunt you for years.

What Is A Security Interest? A Debt Secured by Collateral

Family on bicycle rideWhen you obtain a loan, in most cases the lender does not want to just give you the money, they want to make sure that you have some sort of incentive to make sure you make your payments.  What better incentive is there than taking away your property if you do not pay?  Therefore, creditors normally want something as collateral to ensure you repay the money they lent you; they are taking a secured interest in your property and the debt you owe them is a secured debt.

There are many different cases of secured interest.  You can go to a dealership and purchase a vehicle, the lender then has a secured interest, the car that you just purchased.  If you decide to no longer keep making your car payment the lender can simply come and pick up or repossess the vehicle.  Put it up for auction and recoup their money.  You buy a home, for whatever reasons, you no longer make the payments, then the mortgage company is going to come and foreclose (take your home back) on your property.  If you go to Best Buy and get a new TV, even though you don’t sit in their office and sign a promissory note like you do on your vehicle; that credit card you used to make the purchase acts the same.  Best Buy still has a secured interest on their goods (the TV that you purchased). This is what’s called a purchase money security interest.

Most debts are unsecured debts. Meaning they do not have a security interest. Most credit cards, medical bills and personal loans are without you putting collateral up for the debt. However, you know a debt is secured if you have property the creditor can come and get if you do not pay the debt.

Companies have rights just as consumers do in order to protect themselves, when you purchase something whether it be a car, a home, jewelry or furniture, companies need to know they will recover the money due to them and, therefore, use collateral as a secured interest. If you cannot make the payments, they can recover the collateral and try to sell it to recover the amount they loaned you.

What Does It Mean If Debt is “Charged Off” On My Credit Report?

One of the most frequent calls we get at our office is, “What does it mean when it says, “charge off”? Do I need to list this in my list of creditor’s?”  The answer is always “yes”!

Credit Card Lying on White BackgroundAs you are perfectly aware, once you owe a debt, the creditor will relentlessly try to collect the money that you owe them.  Although certain laws govern how far they can go trying to collect a debt, we know they will call, send letters, then call again; day after day!  After a certain amount of time (this will depend on the company policy and practices) after being unable to collect the debt the creditor is going to “charge off” your debt.  This is done primarily for their tax purposes; they are telling the IRS that they have just chalked it up that you have no intention of paying off that debt.  It’s a loss in their books for accounting purposes.

Does that mean that you no longer owe the debt?  No!  Just because they charged the debt off doesn’t wipe away the fact that you still owe that company money.  They can charge your account off and still attempt to collect the debt.  More likely, they can transfer or sell the debt to a collection agency for pennies on the dollar and the collection agency will then try to collect on the debt. There are companies that actually make a living off of buying “bad debt” and then trying to ruthlessly collect on that debt to make money.

Remember, a charge off is really just used for “book keeping” purposes; it has nothing to do with the fact you still owe money.  If you are completing your bankruptcy, we strongly suggest you list all of your debts including those that state they have been “charged off”!

Can I Get a New Apartment Lease During Bankruptcy?

You sure can! It may be a bit more difficult to find a place that will rent to you than it otherwise would be, but be patient. Depending on the rental agency, you may be required to pay a higher security deposit or even be required to have a co-signer. It really depends on the rental agency.