Category Archives: Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Plan

How Can A Chapter 13 Case Be Involuntarily Dismissed?

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When an individual files a chapter 13 bankruptcy case to reorganize their debts involuntary dismissal of the case was most likely not the outcome desired. The entire reason for filing bankruptcy is to obtain relief from creditors. The case being involuntarily dismissed does not help. Involuntary dismissal does happen though. There are actually many ways a Chapter 13 Reorganization can be dismissed involuntarily or without the consent of the person filing the case. This article will focus on the most common reasons a Chapter 13 bankruptcy reorganization is dismissed by the filing of a motion to dismiss by the standing Chapter 13 Trustee assigned to administer the bankruptcy estate. Each jurisdiction has a standing Chapter 13 trustee assigned to administer all of the chapter 13 cases filed in that region. In the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California we have three different standing Chapter 13 Trustees.

1. Failure to Pay or Failure to Timely Pay the Monthly Chapter 13 Plan Payment

This is the single most common reason a Chapter 13 case is dismissed. The reason is not because creditors will stop getting paid through the Chapter 13 plan when the debtor stops making the plan payments. Some bankruptcy attorneys will say the reason a motion to dismiss the case is filed is because the confirmed chapter 13 plan is violated when a debtor stops making the plan payments. While this is true, the real world reason is the Chapter 13 trustee gets a percentage of the monthly Chapter 13 plan payment to administer the Chapter 13 bankruptcy estate. Chapter 13 trustees cannot continue to administer cases they are not getting paid for. A Chapter 13 trustee could in theory go bankrupt themselves if they operate like that. Really there are many issues surrounding failure to make the monthly Chapter 13 plan payment any of the foregoing reasons are valid. At any point in the three to five year Chapter 13 plans if the monthly chapter 13 plan payments are not paid to the Chapter 13 trustee can file a motion to seek dismissal of the case. Some trustees are more aggressive than others and different offices handle nonpayment quite differently. Some Chapter 13 trustees will send a letter informing the chapter 13 debtor the amount not paid and when it must be paid by or a motion to dismiss the case will be filed. Others go straight to filing a motion to dismiss the case and set it for hearing. There is no mercy at all. Either pay or the case will be dismissed.

2. Failure to Confirm a Chapter 13 Plan of Reorganization

The requirements to confirm or approve a Chapter 13 Plan of reorganization are set forth in 11 U.S.C. Section 1325(a) and there are many requirements. Almost all jurisdictions use some version of a model chapter 13 plan that helps meet the requirements for confirmation or approval of the plan of reorganization by the court. Unfortunately model plans also hurt debtors in limiting their options to reorganize their debts. It cuts both ways. The goal is to try and make the reorganization more streamlined and less work for the court. Objections to confirmation of the chapter 13 plan are routinely filed by the chapter 13 trustee or secured creditors. Rarely do creditors holding general unsecured claims do anything in chapter 13 cases. Why? It is not worth their time or money to do anything but file a proof of claim and be done with it. For secured creditors or creditors with priority unsecured debts the law is different. Depending upon the circumstances secured creditors and creditors with priority unsecured debts will mostly be paid through the Chapter 13 plan of reorganization and the debt owed to them could be reorganized or changed for the benefit of the bankruptcy filer. Chapter 13 trustees also have to file objections to confirmation given they are the gatekeeper making sure the requirements for confirmation, as they determine, are met. In almost all circumstances if the Chapter 13 trustee recommends a Chapter 13 plan be confirmed the court will confirm the plan. It is when the objections to confirmation are not resolved or withdrawn a debtor and their bankruptcy attorney can run into problems and the case could be dismissed for undue delay in confirming or resolving the objections to confirmation. At some point a hearing will have to be held regarding confirmation of the Chapter 13 plan and the judged assigned to the case can weigh in on what should happen. If there is an issue that requires additional evidence to make a determination an evidentiary hearing or mini-trial will have to be conducted. If the court denies confirmation the debtor will usually be given additional time to amend the plan or the case will be converted to Chapter 7 or involuntarily dismissed.

3. Bad Faith of the Bankruptcy Filer is Case for Involuntary Dismissal

11 U.S.C. Section 1307(c) allows for the dismissal of a Chapter 13 case for cause on a finding of bad faith based upon the totality of the circumstances. Leavitt v. Soto (In re Leavitt), 171 F.3d 1219, 1222-23 (9th Cir. 1999). There are four factors to take into consideration: (1) whether the debtor misrepresented facts in his; petition or plan, unfairly manipulated the Code, or otherwise filed his petition or plan in an inequitable manner; (2) the debtor’s history of filings and dismissals; (3) whether the debtor intended to defeat state court litigation; and (4) whether egregious behavior is present. There is a lot of gray in these factors when determining whether a Chapter 13 case was filed in bad faith.

4. Sua Sponte Dismissal of a Chapter 13 Case

This is extremely rare but possible. Sua Sponte means the court on its own accord chooses to dismiss the Chapter 13 case given the court made the determination the case is not proper. Section 105(a) explicitly provides the bankruptcy court with this authority. In relevant part, § 105(a) states: “No provision of this title providing for the raising of an issue by a party in interest shall be construed to preclude the court from, sua sponte, taking any action or making any determination necessary or appropriate to enforce or implement court orders or rules, or to prevent an abuse of process.” See also Tennant v. Rojas (In re Tennant), 318 B.R. 860, 869 (9th Cir. BAP 2004) (holding that bankruptcy court may sua sponte dismiss a chapter 13 case under §§ 1307 and 105(a)).

How Can 1,000 Percent Interest Be Legal?

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Interest rates are capturing my attention more and more these days. One human being pays less than 3 percent interest to borrow money while another human being agrees to pay 1,000 percent interest. Loan sharking is perfectly legal again. Just look at payday loans, cash advances and the title loan lending industries. They are horribly expensive to borrow money from and I can tell you for a fact they will violate the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act when trying to collect for nonpayment. Our government is asleep at the wheel on this issue. Why are we allowing people to be charged unconscionably high interest rates to borrow money that were intended to be illegal? Society as a whole deemed charging such high interest rates bad for society and passed usury laws to limit how much interest can be charged. The theory is that those in financial stress need to be protected from themselves to a certain extent. They may not be thinking clearly given the stress they are under which makes them ripe to be taken advantage of. Unfortunately there are exceptions to exceptions in most states that allow this horrible interest rates.

What A 132 Percent Interest Loan Looks Like Other Than Just Horrible

The 132 percent interest loan was the result of a title loan. The borrower turns over to the lender their pink slip to their vehicle and the borrower is given a loan with the vehicle as collateral. This is a non-purchase money security interest loan for those keeping score out there that know what a PMSI loan is. If not, please Google “purchase money security interest” to find out why PMSI is a good thing for you and your finances, especially if you own real property (house or land) in California. Given the loan is secured by collateral you would think the loan is not a high risk loan and the interest rate would be reasonable. The 132 percent interest says otherwise though. So this 132 percent interest loan was for the principal balance of $18,000 and a term of three years or 36 months. The collateral was a vehicle worth good money still, a Toyota Sequoia. In addition to the 132 percent interest there was a prepaid finance charge to be paid upfront of $1,800. So this person actually only borrowed $16,200 since they had to pay $1,800 upfront. The kicker is they are paying interest on the full $18,000. Horrible.

The monthly loan payment is $2,046.19. What? That is a mortgage payment not a vehicle loan payment. Each year the borrower will pay $24,554.28 to the lender for the original borrowed $16,200. The total amount due on the loan if each payment were made during the three years is $73,662.84. I have no idea why the borrower needed $16,200 so bad they were willing to pay it back 4 times over and I did not ask. All I know is this loan should be illegal.

California Law And Title Loans

California is considered a loophole state. This borrower would end up paying back the original $16,200 borrowed 4 times over. This is criminal and illegal right? Wrong. There are limits or caps on interest for title loans in California for loans of $2,500 or less. So what do title loan lenders do in California? They only do title loans in amounts above $2,500 so that the California Usury Laws do not apply. Nice. So when the title loan company employee wants you to add $500 to your title loan to bring the amount borrowed over $2,500 it is to allow the title loan company to charge you a higher interest rate. They are not looking out for your best interest.

The 132 Percent Loan Is Not Much Different Than Carrying A Balance On A Credit Card

Almost every one of our clients expresses some sort of guilt at some point in the process of filing for bankruptcy protection. Most of the time there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty. There is actually no loss of money by those discharged in the bankruptcy case. How you can that be you ask? If someone is discharging $30,000 in debts then someone or a company out there lost money. Nope. Wrong. Not a true. Most of our clients have been making payments for years and years before there is a problem or seek bankruptcy protection to legally discharge their debts. All that interest accrues and gets paid. So the principal borrowed gets paid back and what is left to pay is the ongoing interest fees from carrying a balance on the card each month. For example let us say you purchased a TV at Costco, a 60’ Samsung for $2,500 on your Discover Card with an interest rate of 20%. To pay off the debt in 12 months you would have to make a minimum payment of $232 a month for 12 months, total payments of $2,784. The credit card company only gets $284 in profits. A more likely scenario is repayment will take three years or more. If the balance of $2,500 with 20% in paid off in 48 months or four years the monthly payment will be around $77 a month, total payments of $3,696. There is about $1,196 in interest profit to be made and the principal amount borrowed? It was paid off on month 32. So if this person retains a bankruptcy attorney and files for bankruptcy protection after 32 months or more of making payments Discover Card will only have lost gross profits from an interest rate that used to be illegal.

The Good News Is There Is Another Loophole To Help Title Loan Borrowers

This is kind of good news. That bad news is the loophole is in filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. When reorganizing debts in Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyers can have their clients only payback the fair market value of the vehicle collateral. Not what is owed according to the loan terms. So in the example above if the borrowers Toyota Sequoia is only worth $12,000 in the real world that is what the borrower will pay at around 4.75% interest. So not only can we reduce the principal amount owed, but we can reduce the percentage rate too. Filing Chapter 13 would allow the borrower in our example to pay back the loan and get the pink slip back at $210 a month for 60 months, the length of the Chapter 13 Plan. What a massive savings and the lender actually loses nothing. The lender just loses the gross profits resulting from what should be an illegal interest rate to begin with.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy and Whether HOA Dues are Discharged Post-Petiton

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The Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel issued an unpublished opinion that analyzes the Bankruptcy Code through history as it applies to homeowner’s association dues. See Batali v. Mira Owners Association; BAP No. WW-14-1557-KiFJu. Ms. Lin and I have both written articles about HOA dues and this article does not discuss pre-petition homeowners association dues and their dischargeability. But please note, bankruptcy attorneys need also to be aware of whether or not the HOA has recorded a lien for the pre-filing unpaid dues.

In the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act the treatment of HOA dues was forever changed in Homeowner Association’s favor. There is a lot of confusion with homeowners associations and their nonbankruptcy attorneys regarding this issue. Many please say if you stay you pay. If you do not stay you do not pay.

1994 Changes to Bankruptcy Code

The push to not be able to discharge homeowner’s association dues post-petition began really in 1994. In 1994 Congress added Section 523(a)(16) to the Code. In 1994 Section 523(a)(16) excepted from discharge under §§ 727, 1141, 1228(a), 1228(b) or 1328(b):

A fee or assessment that becomes due and payable after the order for relief to a membership association with respect to the debtor’s interest in a dwelling unit that has condominium ownership or in a share of a cooperative housing corporation, but only if such fee or assessment is payable for a period during which — (A) the debtor physically occupied a dwelling unit in the condominium or cooperative project; or (B) the debtor rented the dwelling unit to a tenant and received payments from the tenant for such period, but nothing in this paragraph shall except from discharge the debt of a debtor for a membership association fee or assessment for a period arising before entry of the order for relief in a pending or subsequent bankruptcy case.

2005 BAPCPA Changes to Section 523(a)(16)

Section 523(a)(16) was not changed again until the passage of the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act. Section 523(a)(16) was modified to include homeowners’ associations and delete the language that required debtors to actually physically reside in or collect rents rom the units.

There are a number of cases that discuss the post-petition treatment of HOA dues and whether they are discharged or not. A court in 1997 discussed whether HOA dues were a debt, and if so, did the Chapter 13 Plan provide for the debt? In that case since the time-share was surrendered through the plan the court reasoned the HOA dues were provided for and therefore discharged. The post-petition dues are a claim as defined by Section 101(5) of the Code. The Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel addressed this issue in Foster v. Double R Ranch Ass’n (In re Foster), 435 B.R. 650 (9th Cir. BAP 2010). The 9th Circuit BAP concluded that concluded that the “ongoing ownership of property with a running covenant creates a postpetition claim even if the debtor does not use the property.”

The issue is whether post-petition homeowner’s associations are discharged upon completion of a Chapter 13 Plan?

To begin the discussion the binding effect of confirmation of a Chapter 13 Plan pursuant to Section 1327 needs to be addressed. Section 1327(a) provides: The provisions of a confirmed plan bind the debtor and each creditor, whether or not the claim of such creditor is provided for by the plan, and whether or not such creditor has objected to, has accepted, or has rejected the plan. While this is true the language of the plan needs to be reviewed. The main problem here is that model Chapter 13 Plans are difference from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and what Chapter 13 Trustee will object to is different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Also, a debtor can add language to a Chapter 13 Plan that is not part of a model Chapter 13 Plan. In this case, Batali v. Mira Owners Association, Batali’s Chapter 13 Plan made no mention of discharging the post-petition dues owed to Mira Owners Association. So how can the binding effect of the Chapter 13 Plan discharge the dues owed if no mention of the dues is made? The 9th Cir. BAP concluded the Chapter 13 Plan cannot discharge post-petition dues if they are not mentioned in the Chapter 13 Plan pursuant to Section 1327. Also in the Batali case Mira Owner’s Association requested relief from stay to pursue Batali for the post-petition dues owed and was granted that relief without any opposition from Batali.
Going back to the In re Foster case decided by the 9th Cir. BAP the panel looked at Washington State Law and concluded that are recorded condominium declaration, like that of Mira Owner’s Association, runs with the land and is a property right that cannot be extinguished in a bankruptcy. As long as the debtor continues to have an interest in the property at issue, a debtor cannot discharge the post-petition assessments that arise from the covenant that runs with the property.

We are therefore back to “you stay you pay” argument many bankruptcy attorneys will recite. The argument goes that the debtor provided in the Chapter 13 Plan that they are surrendering the property pursuant to the terms of the confirmed Chapter 13 Plan. The Ninth Circuit Appellate Panel again refers to the reasoning in the Foster case they decided previously. A debtor cannot extinguish a homeowners association’s recorded declaration and may therefore not discharge the debtor’s post-petition assessments even if a debtor does not reside in the property. The 9th Cir. BAP does not believe Section 523(a)(16) provides generally that post-petition HOA dues are claims or debts that can be discharged pursuant to Section 1328(a) of the Code.

The Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel holds that Section 523(a)(16) is not applicable to discharge under Section 1328(a) and that state law governs the substance of claims. So if the state you are in is different than Washington State Law or more specifically that the HOA declaration is not a covenant that runs with the land then the decision in this case may have been difference. The next issue is about what effect a debtor providing a piece of property is to be surrendered in a Chapter 13 Plan. Just because the Chapter 13 Plan says a property is to be surrendered that fact does not actually transfer the property out of the debtor’s name. The debtor still maintains their legal, equitable and possessory interest in the property until foreclosure or some other form of transfer of title out of the debtor’s name. Just giving up possession does not transfer title. Notice of intent to surrender only gives a creditor notice that a debtor will make the collateral available to the secured creditor to use their state law rights to take back the collateral securing the debt. Under most state laws the transfer of real property can only take place by deed.

In the Ninth Circuit and in the state of Washington, based upon Washington state law, homeowner’s association dues that come due after a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case is filed and when the property titled is transferred out of the debtor’s name are not discharged. Like many things in law this analysis and conclusion may not be an absolute for other debtors in other states and with different Chapter 13 Plan language.

Can A Third Party Help Make A Chapter 13 Plan Payment?

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There are a number of requirements that must be met for proposed chapter 13 plans to be confirmed or approved by the bankruptcy court. See Section 1325 of the Bankruptcy Code for all of the requirements. The focus of this article is Section 1325(a)(6) which provides the court shall confirm a plan if, “the debtor will be able to make all payments under the plan and to comply with the plan.” The proposed chapter 13 plan must be feasible or possible. More or less the bankruptcy filer must be able to make the payments proposed in the chapter 13 plan for the entire life of the plan. Usually the plan will last three to five years depending upon the circumstances. So can a third party help make a chapter 13 plan payment each month for the entirety of the plan? The answer is yes under most circumstances.

Yes, A Third Party Can Help Make A Chapter 13 Plan Payment

This issue does not really come up too often for most bankruptcy lawyers. Most courts generally allow third party help, but it is disfavored for a number of reasons. See In re: Schwalb, 347 B.R. 726, 759 (Bankr. D. Nev. 2006. In Schwalb the court held that a debtor may rely on contributions from family and is not prohibited, but disfavored. Of course if the bankruptcy filer can get it done themselves that is much more favorable than having to rely on a third party for money each month. There has to be a firm commitment from the third party to make the contribution each month into the chapter 13 plan. If a third party contribution seems like it is speculative or will only be occasional then the chapter 13 plan can be considered not possible or feasible. The amount of the monthly contribution must be certain too. How can a court confirm or trustee recommend confirmation if the amount of the monthly contribution by the third party is not listed or known? There are a number of factors to consider: (1) the contributor’s relationship to the debtor and motivation in making the contributions; (2) the contributor’s long and undisputed history of making the contributions otherwise providing support for the debtor; (3) the commitment of the contributor to make the contribution in a specific amount for the duration of the chapter 13 plan; and (4) the financial stability of the contributor to make the proposed contribution. The bankruptcy filer and their bankruptcy attorney have the burden of proof in providing evidence to support confirmation of the proposed chapter 13 plan.

Why Would Someone Need Help With Their Monthly Chapter 13 Plan Payment?

The basic problem is the debtor or person filing bankruptcy does not have enough income after paying normal living expenses to meet their obligation under the bankruptcy code to creditors when filing chapter 13 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy filer may only have $100.00 left over each month, but they have taxes that must be paid back in the chapter 13 plan or mortgage arrears that must be paid back in the chapter 13 plan. To pay the unpaid taxes or mortgage arrears the bankruptcy filer, for example, would have to pay $300.00 each month to fund the plan and make it feasible. Again, the bankruptcy filer cannot afford the plan payment, so they obtain third party assistance from a friend or family member. The friend or family member pays the additional $200 a month to make the plan possible or feasible and meet the requirements of Section 1325(a)(6).

Are There Limits To Third Party Help In Chapter 13?

How these issues are dealt with is different from circuit to circuit, district to district and division to division. But generally speaking most jurisdictions allow third party help under most circumstances. In a recent case with third party help proposed, In re Carolyn Deutsh, 2015 Bankr. Lexis, 1368, the Bankruptcy Court actually denied confirmation of the debtor’s chapter 13 plan for not being feasible. What went wrong here? In this case the third party contributor was the debtor’s boyfriend. So, they are not married and the boyfriend is a new boyfriend who says he “intends to contribute only for so long as he is financially able” according to the declaration filed in the case. Okay, can that be relied upon? The bankruptcy court said no. The third party needs to have some sort of tie to the debtor that is not so new it cannot be depended upon. Also the language of the declaration leaves a lot to be said. Why the declaration in Deutsh or less says “I think or guess I will help” instead of “I will contribute $700 a month toward the chapter 13 monthly plan payment for the entire duration of the chapter 13 plan.” There still could have been an issue with the third party contributor being a new boyfriend, but if the language of the declaration had been more concise about the boyfriend’s willingness to help things in the Deutsh may have been different.

The moral of the story is make sure the third party contributor to the monthly chapter 13 plan payment is committed to help, you have known them for some time and the amount they will contribute each months is listed specifically in the declaration prepared and filed with the court.

Will In re Flores Finally Settle the Applicable Commitment Period Question When Filing Chapter 13 in the 9th Circuit?

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On August 29, 2013, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (En Banc) issued their opinion in the matter of Cesar Ivan Flores and Ana Maria Flores, No. 11-55452. Hopefully this opinion will finally put to rest how long the applicable commitment period is when seeking reorganization under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. That is, how long does a Chapter 13 Plan have to be? The Ninth Circuit issued this opinion “En Banc” which is significant given that prior inconsistent opinions were issued by a divided panel of Ninth Circuit Judges. All Judges of the Ninth Circuit participated in this opinion, so the Flores opinion is binding.

So what is the applicable commitment period for a Chapter 13 Plan? It is how long the Chapter 13 Plan of reorganization will last or how many monthly Chapter 13 Plan payments a debtor has to make before receiving a discharge of their remaining debts. The Bankruptcy Code says the applicable commitment period is either 3 years or not less than 5 years if the debtors current monthly income when multiplied by 12 is not less than the median annual family income in the applicable state. Each state has different median incomes to compare to a debtors income. Your bankruptcy attorney should know the median incomes for your particular state. In California the median incomes by number of people in a household right now are follows:

Household of 1 $48,415 per year or $4,035 per month
Household of 2 $63,030 per year or $5,253 per month
Household of 3 $48,415 per year or $5,617 per month
Household of 4 $63,030 per year or $6,305 per month
Household of 5 $48,415 per year or $6,980 per month
Household of 6 $63,030 per year or $7,655 per month
Household of 7 $48,415 per year or $8,330 per month
Household of 8 $63,030 per year or $9,005 per month

In the Flores case the debtors’ income was not in dispute and it was over the median income based upon the number of people in their household. So the applicable commitment period should arguably be five years. The Flores’ and their bankruptcy lawyer proposed a plan of three years though given that their Chapter 13 Statement of Monthly Disposable Income resulted in either $0.00 or negative monthly disposable income. Here is where the different decisions from different jurisdictions comes into play. The Kagenveama case led to confusion or an argument that if a debtors projected monthly disposable income was negative there is no applicable commitment period and a three month plan in theory could be confirmed/approved. So the Ninth Circuit in Flores tells us that “in light of the statute’s text, purpose, and legislative history, we now hold that the temporal requirement of §1325(b) applies regardless of the debtor’s projected disposable income. What does that mean? It means if your average income for the six months prior to filing for Chapter 13 protection is above the median income in California as listed above you will have to file a 5 year Chapter 13 Plan of reorganization. If you live in another state the median incomes will be different. It appears we are now back to how things were prior to the Kagenveama and Lanning cases to determine the term or length of Chapter 13 Plans.

As the former staff attorney for a Chapter 13 Trustee I can tell you that in most cases the commitment period is not an issue. The majority of cases filed include a Chapter 13 Plan of reorganization that is 60 months or five years because it makes the monthly Chapter 13 Plan payment less than if the Chapter 13 Plan was proposed for only 36 months. A debtor may choose to propose a 60 month Chapter 13 Plan even though their income is less than the median income in their state. For example, if a debtor has $15,000 in priority taxes they are paying back in a Chapter 13 Plan the 36 month payment would be about $416.67 per month and a 60 month payment would be $250.00 per month. The debtor may not be able to afford to pay $416.67 a month and have to file the 60 month plan anyway. Many bankruptcy attorneys pushed the envelope though and tried to propose plans that were only 6 months long or 12 months long. Their clients had negative projected monthly disposable income so arguably there was not a required applicable commitment period.

Can I Change or Modify My Chapter 13 Plan Once It Is Confirmed or Approved?

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Yes, you can change your chapter 13 plan once it is confirmed or approved by the Bankruptcy Court. The Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel discussed this issue in Mattson v. Howe (In re Mattson), 468 B.R. 361 (9th Cir. BAP April, 2012). The BAP discussed whether the debtor must show a substantial unanticipated change in their circumstances to modify the approved or confirmed chapter 13 plan of reorganization.

Section 1329 of the Bankruptcy Code provides that at any time after confirmation of the plan but before the completion of payments under such plan, the plan may be modified, upon request of the debtor, the trustee, or the holder of an allowed unsecured claim . . . .

A number of circuits have adopted the “substantial and unanticipated change” test for whether a plan modification should be allowed or not. The Ninth Circuit has adopted no such test. The greatest hurtle a plan modification might face is a good faith test under Section 1325(a)(3) of the Bankruptcy Code. A modification of a confirmed plan must still be presented in good faith based upon the totality of the circumstances. In the Mattson case the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel provides that, “In the end, in evaluating plan modifications, it may make little practical difference whether the bankruptcy court applies the substantial and unanticipated change test as a threshold requirement or uses it as a discretionary tool.” Mattson v. Howe (In re Mattson), 468 B.R. 361, 369 (B.A.P. 9th Cir. 2012). “[T]he bankruptcy court believed that the good faith test lacked predictability and therefore added the requirements of the substantial and unanticipated change test and that the change in the plan correlate to the change in circumstances.” Mattson at 371 (discussing the standard used by the trial court). “We conclude that the bankruptcy court’s second requirement—that the proposed modification correlate to Debtors’ change in circumstances—necessarily implicates a good faith analysis.” Mattson at 371. “[W]e view the bankruptcy court’s correlation requirement as simply another factor that may be considered under the totality of circumstances approach to a good faith analysis in this Circuit. We emphasize, however, that no single factor is determinative of the lack of good faith.” Mattson at 371.

So what can bankruptcy attorneys take away from this case? Basically if you are going to request a modification of a confirmed plan make sure something bad has happened to your client that makes the change in the plan reasonable and in good faith based upon the totality of the circumstances. Do not have something good happen to your clients then try and change the plan that potentially harms the creditors in the case. In the Mattson case increasing the plan payment to $1,000 a month for 36 months rather than the $150 a month payment for 60 months would benefit creditors so . . . . I do not know what happened after the appeal, but I wonder if the Mattson’s bankruptcy lawyers got them stuck in a 60 month plan paying $1,000 a month?