What is a reaffirmation agreement? A reaffirmation agreement is a legal, enforceable contract, filed with the bankruptcy court, which states your promise to repay all or a portion of a debt that may otherwise have been subject to discharge in your bankruptcy case. When you sign a reaffirmation agreement, you are re-establishing that liability.
By all means, this does not mean that you can keep the car, or not make payments and still receive the car title. The reaffirmation agreement re-establishes liability otherwise eliminated in the bankruptcy. If you fail to make payments, it means the car will be repossessed, and you will be liable for any remaining balance.
In other words, this is exactly what happens when you don’t file bankruptcy, have a car repossessed, get sued and must pay the remaining deficiency balance.
The reality is the majority — over 70% — of car lenders make a reaffirmation agreement mandatory as a condition of keeping the car. This means that you will not be able to choose whether you want to sign the reaffirmation agreement. Failing to complete the reaffirmation will allow the lender to repossess the vehicle after your bankruptcy is completed. If that does happen, you will not be liable for the remaining balance because you did not reaffirm the loan.
Are there benefits of the reaffirmation? There are a few:
- The lender will send you a monthly billing statement or payment coupons. Many lenders will not do this unless you reaffirm the loan.
- You will get some warnings from the lender when you fall behind on payments. Some lenders are very aggressive. If you fail to sign a reaffirmation agreement and fall behind on the payments after your case is over, the lender will repossess the car quickly. You would not be liable for the difference owed after the car is sold.
When does a reaffirmation on a car loan make sense?
- Low balance. You probably would be safe enough to file the reaffirmation if you had a low amount of payments left (12 or less). I
- Low payment. A low monthly payment usually means you will be able to afford making the payment after signing the reaffirmation. There still is a risk, especially if you were to lose your job. But even with unemployment, you might be able to afford a payment that is less than $400 per month.
- No other car available. That means you cannot come up with $5,000 to buy a reliable used car.
- Co-signer exposure. Someone used his or her credit to help you get a car loan. You don’t want to hurt the co-signer’s credit. Even if the payment is difficult, most people don’t want the lender suing a person who was willing to help you get the car — especially when that person is a mom, dad, sister or brother.
When does a reaffirmation not make sense?
- High balance and high interest rate. You can and will be able to find another car after bankruptcy. Car lenders are available for people who have recently filed bankruptcy. Don’t become so emotionally attached to your car that you can’t see when it is best to surrender the car and find something new.
- You are unemployed. Unless the payment is very low, you just don’t want to take any liability after your bankruptcy is over. Yes, I know you will need a car to find a job and go on interviews, but that process could take a while and you could end up with a post-bankruptcy-filing, post-reaffirmation repossession. That would compound a difficult situation.
- The value of the car is much less than what you owe. While most people owe more on their car than it is worth, you ought to see how far upside down you actually are. If the value of the car is less than 50% of what you owe, a reaffirmation might not make sense.
I hope this helps with questions of a reaffirmation agreement. As always, please consult with your Attorney before making any decisions regarding your Bankruptcy. While your credit score may not see the benefit of the future payments, you will avoid additional risks such as repossession and a lawsuit after your bankruptcy case is closed.
- When it is time to get a new car in our program, while in your Bankruptcy, you can reach out to me here or have your Attorney follow-up with our office.