201512.07
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Serial bankruptcy filer strikes again

December 7, 2015

On Nov. 10, 2015, a Florida man filed his 15th bankruptcy petition since 2002, just weeks after his ban on filing ended. He might well own the notorious title of Tampa Bay’s most frequent bankruptcy filer.

His previous filings effectively avoided foreclosure on his residence for more than a decade. He now hopes to prevent eviction from his rental townhome in the same manner. One Tampa bankruptcy judge observed that she had never seen so many bankruptcy filings from one individual. His file reflects that as it makes a large volume of his record and bankruptcy discharges. However, she observed that serial filers might not be taking advantage of the system. Instead, they consider why the person is filing bankruptcy. For example, complications with the IRS might lead to different foreclosure problems.

The man claimed that his current economic struggles are due to seizures and related health issues. With monthly rent payments of $2,200, he is delinquent to the tune of $7,800 or over three months behind on payments.

He and his wife purchased a previous home just a few miles away from his current home in 2001. He quit making payments within months, and the bank began foreclosure proceedings. He filed bankruptcy the following year. Since bankruptcy automatically stops debt collection and any foreclosure proceedings, the couple was able to stay in their home without making payments for 12 years by submitting bankruptcy petitions to block the sale each time the bank attempted to foreclose. Since he did not submit the proper paperwork, the judge kept dismissing the petitions. The bank would start foreclosure proceedings again, starting the cycle over.

Although judges have the option of stopping a debtor from repeated filings if they think that the debtor is taking advantage of the system, he continued this pattern for more than a decade. Technically, the government imposes no limits on how many petitions a person can file. On Sept. 20, 2013, a judge finally labeled him a serial filer and prohibited him from additional filings until Sept. 20, 2015. His home was repossessed, and his family moved to the current rental.

In some cases, people need to file repeated bankruptcy, depending on their personal and business situations. Our law firm can assist you with legal counsel regarding your options and how long you need to wait in between bankruptcy filings.