One of the concerns when considering bankruptcy is how it could effect any equity you have in your property. Will you get to keep it? Can your creditors get access to it?
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Releasing equity in bankruptcy
Bankruptcy will normally write off most if not all of your unsecured debt. But if you are a home owner that may come at a price. If your share of any equity in your property is worth £10,000 or more, it will have to be released and paid to the Official Receiver (OR). There are basically two ways this can happen.
The first and best option is for you to “buy back” the value of your equity for a cash lump sum. The amount you have to pay will usually need to be the equivalent of (or close to) the value of your share of the equity. Once this is done your property is yours to keep.
If you are unable to buy back your equity within 12 months, there is a risk that your property may have to be sold. The Official Receiver or Trustee in Bankruptcy could apply to the Court for an Order to force you to sell if necessary.
If you go bankrupt the Official Receiver does not want to sell your house. They would much prefer you buy back your financial interest with a cash lump sum.
Joint equity in bankruptcy
If you own your property with someone else, any equity is normally jointly owned with them. In the event of your bankruptcy the total equity is split. This is usually on the basis of a 50/50 ownership but could be divided differently based on pre agreed terms.
Only your share of the total equity is at risk. The other joint owner’s share is protected. It would common for them to offer to buy your share from the Official Receiver thus protecting the property.
If they are unable to do this then depending on the amount of equity the Official Receiver or Trustee can still apply to the court for an Order for sale. If this happens the other joint owner is unlikely to be able to prevent the sale even if children are also living in the property.
The other joint owner (or a 3rd party) may have paid the deposit when you bought your property. If so they can usually deduct this sum from equity. The remaining amount is then split to give the share available for the Official Receiver.
Can I avoid losing my house?
If the value of your share of the equity in your property is over £10,000 then your property is potentially at risk if you go bankrupt. As discussed above you can protect your home by buying this back from the Official Receiver.
If it is not going to be possible to ‘buy’ your equity then you may well lose your home. In these circumstances bankruptcy may not be a sensible solution for you unless you have already made the decision to give up your property and rent.
As an alternative you may want to consider an IVA. This solution gives far more protection for your property but will require you to make reasonable monthly payments towards your debts for 5-6 years.
The effect on home equity must be carefully considered before choosing any debt solution. To get further advice on deciding which is right for you call us (0800 077 6180) or complete the form below.
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