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Should I Reaffirm My Mortgage Debt After Bankruptcy?

Written by Camille Puschautz on August 8, 2014 in Real Estate  |   61 comments

If you’ve found yourself in financial difficulty, you may be considering bankruptcy, which allows you to settle with your creditors in court. In a bankruptcy, you may be able reorganize your debts to make your payments more manageable—or even eliminate your debts completely. While a…

should-i-reaffirm-my-mortgage-debt-after-bankruptcyIf you’ve found yourself in financial difficulty, you may be considering bankruptcy, which allows you to settle with your creditors in court. In a bankruptcy, you may be able reorganize your debts to make your payments more manageable—or even eliminate your debts completely.

While a bankruptcy can help you get rid of your debt in general, you may want to recommit to the terms of your mortgage if you can afford to pay it and you want to keep the home. The promise to repay a mortgage after bankruptcy is known as reaffirming your mortgage debt, and whether you want to take this step depends on your circumstances and the type of bankruptcy for which you have filed.

What does it mean to reaffirm your mortgage debt after bankruptcy?

A reaffirmation agreement is a legal contract that states your promise to repay all or a portion of a debt from which you might have otherwise been released in a bankruptcy case. Reaffirming your mortgage debt means recommitting to the terms of the loan and promising to pay it. However, if you default or fail to pay the mortgage, you could still be subject to foreclosure.

“Bankruptcy has given you the right to discharge a debt and no longer have to repay it,” says Sam Tamkin, a Chicago-based real estate attorney, “If you are reaffirming that debt, you are agreeing to repay it.”

People usually opt for bankruptcy because they cannot afford to meet their financial obligations. If that’s the case for you, reaffirming a mortgage debt might undo the positive aspects of the bankruptcy, Tamkin cautions.

Why reaffirm your mortgage debt?

If you are current on your loan payments and able to meet future payments, reaffirming informs the lender that you intend to pay the mortgage. This allows you to keep your home during bankruptcy as long as you abide by the terms of the reaffirmation agreement and make the payments.

Reaffirming your mortgage ensures communication between you, the bank, and the credit reporting agencies, says Jennifer Brown of Fifth Third Bank.

“When you reaffirm, it’s going to alert the credit bureaus that you’re going through a bankruptcy so it looks like you’re paying your mortgage and shows that you have a history of making payments,” Brown explains.

Some lenders require borrowers to reaffirm their mortgage in order to have future payments recorded on their credit report.

“In the lending world, we want to see it’s been reported to the credit bureaus,” Brown says.

Those who do not reaffirm their mortgage debt but who still continue to make payments may find that their payments do not show up on their credit report. “If you don’t notify the lenders that you want to reaffirm, [those lenders] won’t alert the credit bureaus that you’ve been making payments on time,” Brown says.

Reaffirmation may also give you an opportunity to negotiate new terms with your lender in order to reduce your payments, your interest rate, or the total amount you owe.

How do you know whether or not you should reaffirm?

Each situation differs based on your payment history and your ability to pay in the future. If you are able to keep your mortgage debt, reaffirming may help ensure that the mortgage lender will report your payment activity to the credit reporting bureaus.

(Read more: What to Know When Filing for Bankruptcy)

On the other hand, if financial difficulties prevent you from making this commitment and you want to be released from your mortgage in bankruptcy, you should not sign a reaffirmation agreement. Reaffirmation leaves you personally liable for the debt, and you can’t walk away from it after bankruptcy.

“If the lender is foreclosing on your property, there is no need to reaffirm because the lender is going to take the property,” Tamkin says. Additionally, if you are delinquent on your payments, your mortgage lender simply may not allow you to reaffirm your mortgage debt.

“[Borrowers] should work with their bankruptcy attorney and the lenders to see what their goals are and decide whether they need to, want to, or should reaffirm any debt,” Tamkin says.

Because bankruptcy remains on your credit report for 10 years after the filing date, it’s important to maintain other aspects of your credit. As you move on from the bankruptcy, consider taking steps to rebuild your credit file, such as applying for a secured credit card or a retail credit card with a low limit. By making on-time payments and responsibly using credit, you’ll be able to build a strong credit history and make positive changes to your financial life.

Camille Puschautz is a researcher, writer, and Web producer at Think Glink Media, with a background in print and digital media. Previously, Camille worked for Bloomberg News in New York and MediaTec Publishing in Chicago. She is a graduate of the University of Dallas and Northwestern University, where she received a master’s degree in journalism.

61 comments

  1. Ella N., Detroit says:

    Well it all sounds great, but what do you do when the mortgage company ignores you and refuses to work with you? They didn’t even offer a reaffirmation and the judge was pretty upset about it but no matter how many times we contacted the mortgage holder, no response. We let it go to bankruptcy, continued to pay the mortgage until my spouse died and then allowed it to go into foreclosure. I will pay a dear price for this now as I have nowhere to live, cannot get another mortgage and they continued up until the absolute end to refuse to talk to me or assist in any way shape or form. I wonder how they sleep at night.

  2. Nancy says:

    Camille,

    Thank you for writing this very informative article. I have a question related to what you wrote. I went through bankruptcy and didn’t reaffirm my mortgage debt with the lender so it was included in my Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I am still living in the house and now going through foreclosure now. I’m wondering if the lender can still go back and put the foreclosure on my credit report since it was already reported as discharged in bankruptcy?

    • Tracy says:

      What response did u get regarding if your bankruptcy was discharged can forclosure report again negatively on your credit report

    • Valerie says:

      Dear Nancy I filled bankruptcy 8 years ago and my second mortgage wasn’t re affirmed only my first. I have made payments on my second and it doesn’t show on my credit report. I do not receive monthly statements and I keep on paying on time. Can I now re affirmed that debt? Because I’m trying to sell me house should I just pay off that second mortgage?

      • flower says:

        Why don’t you refinance ?

      • sanpat says:

        Valerie,

        I filed for bankruptcy 10 years ago, I reaffirmed the first but not the second and made payments on both. I just got divorced, fell behind on my payments and found out that the reason you don’t receive statements on 2nd loan and the payments don’t show on your credit report its because that debt was discharged in the bankruptcy and you are not legally required to make payments but the bank will still hold a lien against the property.
        I wish I had known that because I could have stopped making payments on it until it was charged off (usually takes 6 months)then start making payments again and it would be paid off by now because after the bank writes off the debt, it does not accrue interest so all your payments are applied to the principle.

        • Emily says:

          SanPat,

          Are you saying that if you don’t make payments on the second loan…the one that you do not receive payments for will charge off?

  3. Nancy says:

    Ella, I understand there is a moderation process that people go through in foreclosure. What did the bank do in that process, if anything? I am sorry to hear about the loss of your husband an current living situation.

  4. You should know who I am says:

    I’d like to know how Equifax can show a judgment entered against me on an account that was included and discharged in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. I’ve disputed 3 times unsuccessfully even though I’ve provided many, many supportive documents showing the judgment amount and creditor that sought judgment were covered under the Chapter 13. Why in the world do they have a dispute process if you can’t win a dispute even with supportive evidence? The other 2 credit reporting agencies do not show the judgment as they obviously know it was included in the bankruptcy.

  5. Lynn says:

    I did not reaffirm my mortgage and have faithfully made payments on my house. If I send all information showing that I have paid / never late to the credit bureaus will the bureaus put it on my credit report?

    • flower says:

      No I tried that several times and I mean more than 10, don’t waste your time, the only way it will show up in your credit again is if you refinance.

  6. Peter C. says:

    By reaffirming the debt, most lenders will report it to credit reporting agencies. This can hurt your credit rating as much as help, for instance: You have a higher debt to income ratio, and any missed future payments are negatively reported. But the main reason not to reaffirm is to protect against future unexpected changes that cause your plans to change, and you decide you need to let the house go. Never reaffirm if the debt exceeds the value of the property.

    Reaffirmation agreements primarily benefit lenders, not consumers. Consumers who did not reaffirm can still contact their lender to obtain a payment loan history, which can be shown as evidence of good payments.

    Nancy: The short answer is Yes. A foreclosure is reported as a “public record”, not a debt.

    You should: The judgment is a public record. The bankruptcy discharged the debt, but did not remove the judgment from your county court record, and it is still a lawful judgment until it expires, or you go through the process of removing it.

  7. Mimi says:

    what if i never affirm the mortgage?
    and if I do…how do I do it?
    what forms to fill out?
    do i contact the mortgage company?

    • Greg says:

      what did you find out? I also have made all payments.

    • Mary says:

      If we reaffirm the 1st and not the 2nd can they foreclose ?

      • EFX Moderator says:

        Mary, A reaffirmation agreement is a legal contract that states your promise to repay all or a portion of a debt from which you might have otherwise been released in a bankruptcy case. Reaffirming your mortgage debt means recommitting to the terms of the loan and promising to pay it. However, if you default or fail to pay the mortgage, you could still be subject to foreclosure. Hope this helps.

  8. Cassie says:

    I didn’t know I could reaffirm my mortgage. I almost always paid it on time, maybe late a few times. In fact I sold the house and paid off the mortgage less than a year after my bankruptcy. However, it shows up on my credit report as included in the bankruptcy. Can I contact the lender (Wells Fargo) to change this?

  9. jenny h. says:

    If you are feeling like you are entirely trapped and overwhelmed by debt, and If you are thinking of bankruptcy there is one very important concept you must be aware of, and that is that the quicker you act the more options you will have. And also ask your attorney advices.

  10. Tru says:

    I applied for bankruptcy and submitted my reaffirmation of my home loan. A year later, my bank tells me I never reaffirmed the loan and that the debt was discharged. Now they have charged me more interest on my home than prior years with no indication of principal paid. I have not been late and in fact have paid more towards the principle because I believed the reaffirmation had gone through without a hitch, The bank now says that after 90 days of discharge with no reaffirmation on file they will not reaffirm it even if I requested it. Do I need a lawyer to reopen my case?

    • EFX Moderator says:

      Tru, If you have questions regarding your mortgage reaffirmation you can contact your attorney at any time and he or she should be able to help. Best of luck.

      • Taybey says:

        I emailed my bankruptcy lawyer and he wont reply since by chapter 7 bankruptcy has been discharged. We never reaffirmed the mortgage because our lawyer or Wells Fargo never told us too, I was never sent any papers so now what? I am making monthly mortgage payments and we are living in our home which we would like to sell soon to move closer to my husbands work. I don’t understand any of this please help.

  11. Khoy says:

    Hi My name is Khoy. I also have file for chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2009 and discharge in 2010. I don’t know if talking to lawyer will help me to resolve this issue. I am trying to refinance my home but the lender is asking for the reaffirmation on my mortage loan. The lawyer was suppose to help me to reaffirm the debt for the house because i was planinng to keep my home. But recently i look on my bankruptcy paper it state that he had surrenderd my debt. I am up to date on my loan. My question is Can i refinance the home without reaffirming my debt? And if i want to sell this home can i still do that? Is the home still legally belong to me?

    • Lucy W. says:

      I am currently in the same situation like you, so are you able to refinance your mortgage w/o reaffirming your first mortgage

    • Cindy says:

      I am in the same boat as you, did you find anything out as far as if you can sell your house legally? Please share whatever you may have found out

    • Mike says:

      Did we all go to the same Bankruptcy Attorney? I was never told anything about reaffirmation although I had made it specifically clear I wanted to keep the property. I am now being told by the Mortgage company I need to submit a reaffirmation letter. Payments have always been current. Any ideas?

    • EFX Moderator says:

      I’m sorry to hear that, Khoy. It may be a good idea to speak with another attorney who can help you assess your situation and decide how to move forward. Best of luck.

    • flower says:

      Sure you can,I just went through that process, you just have to find the right lender. I spent a lot of time looking for one finally I found one out of state but it worked just fine

  12. Ann v. says:

    We have a mobile that we didn’t sign a reaffirmation agreement on. We are wanting to purchase a new home this summer. So are we able to walk away the mobile home and get a new home loan without it hurting us?

  13. DH says:

    We filed chptr 7 bankruptcy 2009, did not reaffirm our mortgage now 5 years later after job losses we have stopped making payments on our mortgage Our lender never once reported ANY of the payments we made for 5 years ontime but now since we cannot make the payments they have “updated” our credit report. I understand the mortgage debt liability was erased with the bankruptcy (discharged in 2010) ; but why can the lender now update my credit with late payments? The foreclosure will take place against the property. Seems like a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting act to me. I asked Transunion to open an investigation. We even tried to get PNC to report the positive payment activity two years ago trying to refinance into a lower interest rate. They did not do that and would not do that. But now they can just “update” my credit report to show the negative activity?

  14. Kathryn says:

    Filed Chapter 7 2011, didn’t reaffirm mortgage. Foreclosure October 2013. Do we pay taxes on the difference the house was sold for?

  15. Vicki M. says:

    I also filed a chapter 7 in 2011, the house was not included.I refinance the house and had no problem what so ever. Now I.m trying to refinance again with the same company and they are telling me I need a reaffirm letter to be considered for refinance . The court will not touch this because the case is closed and the house is worth less than the loan. I’m at a loss.Don’t know where to turn.

    • Mike says:

      By law you had to list the home, even if you were keeping it. Did you use an Attorney? If yes, he failed to properly follow protocol in your Bankruptcy. You should contact him immediately.

    • flower says:

      Vicki, you need to look for a lender that do this type of refinance. The only type of refinance that you will be able to do is the FHA, You will have to look for the right lender.
      I took me a while but I finally found one, and we were able to close in 30 days I got the loan I wanted to 15 years at a 3.75%. Let me know if you want his information

      Your mortgage is not listed in your credit because because it wasn’t reaffirmed, it’s the best way to protect your interest if you pay your mortgage on time, you’ll be ok, and if you decided to walk away from your house, there’s nothing the bank can do to you.

  16. Tanya L. says:

    We filed a Chapter 7 in 2009 and it was discharged in 2010. Our primary residence and our rental property were not included in the bankruptcy. Once we received a copy of our credit report we noticed our mortgages were not listed. We received a modification on both properties and have made on time payments on both after the filing. Are the modifications a form of reaffirmation? We really would like to have our on time mortgage payments to show on our reports to assist us in reestablishing our credit and raise our credit score. Are the lenders obligated through the Fair Credit Reporting Act to show our payments on our report?

  17. James M. says:

    Filed Chapter 7 over 10 years ago. No longer shows on credit reports but Mortgage will not report. They are saying I need to reaffirm. Paid on time never late. Do I still need to reaffirm?

    • EFX Moderator says:

      James, If you have questions regarding your mortgage reaffirmation, it may be a good idea to contact your attorney and/or your lender. Best of luck.

  18. Sandy W. says:

    We filed Chapter 7 almost three years ago. We have two mortgages on our home, the second is a balloon that comes due June 2016. Our mortgage company ignored all requests to reaffirm. We have continued to make both payments but are not sure what happens when that balloon mortgage comes due next June. The amount owed far exceeds the value. We’re not even sure of our options or obligations to the loans. Thanks for your help.

    • EFX Moderator says:

      Sandy, I’m sorry to hear that this happened. Speaking with your real estate attorney could help with these issues, or at least shed some light on your options. Best of luck.

  19. Steph C says:

    Hi Nancy~

    I never reaffirmed my mortgage – and when I once attempted to refinance was told that PA doesnt re-affirm and it was not a good idea anyway since I filed bankruptcty in 2004 and my credit score is now up to 720.

    I recently learned when putting this house up for sale that Wells Fargo had been charging me inflated interst each month (my pmt amt due is $563.74, I paid $565 each month and several months the entire payment of $565 was posted to interest. The loan is 14 years old.)I was not behind on payments.

    I was advised by WF own bankruptcy department that I should not even have been charged interest since the time the bankruptcy was discharged. Since I never reaffirmed, is this true? Does WF owe me a buttload of money?

  20. Ted says:

    I have a concern that I need some help with. We have two mortgages on our house one is 80% and the other 20% with a HELOC on it. We filed a CH 13 4+ years ago. During this time the company with the 20% and HELOC went from cutting me off the online site to where I had to call them every month to make the payment. Then it was, well we will take your payment if you want to make one, to your loan is included in the CH 13. Now, they won’t even talk to me. Since then we got behind on it using the money for other things and they passed it over to their law office saying to send payments there. But they won’t talk to me either. All I want to do is fix it. Now I get a letter from the other company (80%) saying that I can no longer make a payment online with them that I have to mail it. A new law beginning May 2015, for mortgages with people under a CH 13. Considering that the bank that has the mortgage is also where the money gets deposited, I just transfer from one account to another with the same bank. (Checking to Mortgage). Any ideas???? What I’m worried about is that they all tag team us when the discharge goes through next April.

    • EFX Moderator says:

      Ted, This sounds like it could be a question for your attorney. He or she should be able to help. Best of luck.

  21. Laurie says:

    My Chapter 7 was discharged January 2011 due to several hospitalization, during the period between COBRA exhaustion and the two year waiting period for Medicare due to disability. Although I hired a BK attorney, I was naive in accepting very limited documentation that I had retained their services. No guidance was provided, then I was informed he was no longer with the firm. On three different occasions I was informed they had no record of my case and waited days, while they looked into it further. Finally I was given a court date, but no guidance whatsoever. I later learned that a reaffirmation existed and I contacted my lender who said they do not do reaffirmations, ever. The lender then sold my first to an organization that now reminds me, every time I speak with them that they are a collections agency. My second remains with the origanal lender, and is a balloon loan that ends in July 2016. My credit score is low, largely due the loans being on my report without the loan amounts and, of course neither is reporting my excellent payment record. Is there any other way to get into a situatin where my loan payments are reported? Sorry for the long post. I do not know how to explain in a more concise manner. I appreciate any information.

  22. Meredith says:

    …yes, apparently we all had the same attorney…LOL :)
    We completed our bankruptcy June 2012…we told our attorney that we wanted to keep our home, all payments were always on time. First, even though our attorney knew of judgments, he failed to do what was necessary at time of bankruptcy to find lien on home and include in BK. After nearly two years of effort on our part, we got the lien off so we could finally refinance a nearly 7% interest rate loan…now we find out that our mortgage had been discharged, nearly three years of credit building perfect payments not recorded and our loan was also transferred to that ‘debt collecting’ mortgage company. Our mortgage was legally reported in the BK, but our attorney failed to tell us to reaffirm and now that nearly three years have gone by and we are still trying to refinance and now find out it is too late to reaffirm, something we feel we paid our attorney to advise us on.
    QUESTION, isn’t it our attorney’s job to help us navigate these uncharted waters and advise us to reaffirm our mortgage? Not having ever gone bankrupt, we thought since we didn’t include the mortgage in the BK all was good, how are we to imagine these steps are needed?? Attorney has been very difficult in taking any responsibility for his errors and oversights.
    We would really like to know if this was our attorneys job to educate us or file for us so we know how to respond?
    Thanks!!!

    • Rich says:

      My attorney advised me to NOT reaffirm. He asked my why would I want to do that. Really, the only advantage is that your payments get reported to the credit bureaus. Otherwise, I think it is better that I did not reaffirm. I don’t owe the debt on the house, even though I continue to make payments. I can walk away from it anytime with no repercussions. The bank would foreclose, but can not collect the debt that was wiped out by the bankruptcy. Or, I can continue to make all the payments then get the deed. They also can not report the foreclosure. I had rental properties in the same bankruptcy that were foreclosed, and they were not reported.

      • Maria says:

        Hi I filed chapter 7 in jan. 2015. I was discharged may 2015. I also was told by my attorney NOT to sign a reaff. So I didn’t. I am just a couple weeks late on my mortage. It’s due the 16 example. They won’t get it till 22. And I’ll get a late fee now. Since they can’t contact me bc of the bankruptcy and I didn’t sign the reaff, can they foreclose on my house without any warning? Thanks

  23. Mich says:

    I filed bankruptcy and it was discharged in January 2011. I reaffirmed my mortgage but the bank never reported my payments to the credit bureaus. I got behind in payments in 2012 and started getting threats of foreclosure. I was able to get the payments caught up and then the bank sold my loan. The new mortgage company has no record of me reaffirming my loan and doesn’t report my payments to the credit bureaus. My question is, will no record of reaffirmation affect me selling my home? To date, everything has progressed the same as if I had never file bankruptcy except for reporting to the credit bureaus.

    • Mich says:

      Also, on my credit reports it is listed “discharged in bankruptcy” for both the original lender and the new lender. I’m not as concerned about my credit reports as with if I will actually be able to sell the house or if I will actually own it once it’s paid off.

  24. John P. says:

    My bankcruptcy lawyer for chapter 7 have me sign a reaffirmation for my home since were staying in it, but not i lost my job and behind on my mortgage. I was told that I can get sued since I signed the reaffirmed. Is that true?

    • MC says:

      I believe you reverted back to agreeing to repay the note when you signed the reaffirmation. So, you are on the hook for the mortgage. I would assume the mortgage company could foreclose on the property.

    • EFX Moderator says:

      John, this sounds like a question for your attorney. Consider seeking assistance from a qualified professional. Best of luck.

  25. china says:

    I’m confused. I received info from my mortgage company to reaffirm my mortgage. I am in the process of filing chapter 7. I was told by a friend that I don’t need to sign that paper. I’ve never been late and its not being included in the bankruptcy. I was told to simply keep paying the mortgage that there’s nothing the mortgage company can do anyways. Is that true?

    • EFX Moderator says:

      China,
      If you are current on your loan payments and able to meet future payments, reaffirming informs the lender that you intend to pay the mortgage. This allows you to keep your home during bankruptcy as long as you abide by the terms of the reaffirmation agreement and make the payments. Hope this helps.

  26. In the midst says:

    We are in the midst of chapter 7 bankruptcy, we are trying to decide if we should reaffirm our mortgage on our mobile home. We owe more on the home then it is worth. If we don’t reaffirm and foreclose …what are the implications? Will it show as an even more negative impact on our credit (is that possible) or will it just show as apart of the bankruptcy and now we have a “clean slate” to start rebuilding our credit?

  27. Rita says:

    We filed bankruptcy also , having the same issues what can we do ? we are trying to refinance but can not get anyone to give us a loan . We just want some answers please .Should not our attorney advised us of all of this ? What can we do ? please help.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t know you had to reaffirm.so for the last two years my mortgage company has not reported anything.now it’s been over two years since my bankruptcy, my lawyer told me there is noting I can do.so I own a home that’s not getting reported.please can someone give me some advice.


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