Car lenders who make new car loans with an underwater trade-in will face the music in Chapter 13.
The Supreme Court declined to review a 9th Circuit decision that stripped car loans of their protected specially protected status in bankruptcy; as a result, Californians will continue to benefit from the debtor-friendly decision in Penrod, rising out of a San Francisco bankruptcy case.
The question in Penrod
At issue was whether the prohibition on cramming down the debt on a vehicle purchased within 910 days of a bankruptcy filing protected “negative equity” financed in the car purchase.
“Negative equity” is the debt in excess of the trade in’s value. That left-over debt is added to the total of the new car loan and is unrelated to the value of the purchased vehicle.
And BAPCPA, the bankruptcy “reform” act of 2005 prohibited reducing a secured claim on a vehicle purchased within 910 days of the bankruptcy. But did it similarly protect that part of the loan that wasn’t really related to the cost of the vehicle purchased?
In Penrod, the Redwood City resident had traded in a car worth $6,000 on which she owed $13,000. The new car loan included $7000 necessary to pay off the debt on the trade in.
The legal issue is whether that left over debt should enjoy the projections extended car sellers in BAPCPA for purchase money loans on the debtor’s car.
Every other circuit that addressed the question has given purchase money protection to the entire debt including the negative equity portion of the new loan.
The 9th Circuit held the negative equity was not purchase money as to the current car. The appeals court remanded the case for the bankruptcy court to figure out how to apportion the payments made before bankruptcy between the purchase money element and the leftover debt element.
It’s surprising to me that SCOTUS didn’t accept cert on Penrod, since there is clearly a split among the circuits and it seems to this California bankruptcy lawyer that the Supremes take great pleasure in overturning the 9th Circuit.
But I’ll take a victory however it presents itself and await a decision on how to calculate what can be trimmed from a debtor’s car loan in bankruptcy.
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