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Washington area sees drop in bankruptcy filings

Foreclosure prevention programs that went into law in Washington, D.C., and Maryland this year may be one of the factors driving down bankruptcy filings in the area.

In D.C., bankruptcy filings fell 8.7 percent followed by 4 percent in Eastern Virginia and 2.1 percent in Maryland from June 2010 to June 2011. The data comes from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The statistics show a big turnaround from the 26 percent jump in the District between 2009 and 2010. During that time filings jumped 15.4 percent in the Eastern Virginia region and 36 percent in Maryland.

In an interview with The Washington Examiner, bankruptcy lawyer Harris Ammerman, of Ammerman & Goldberg Law Firm, attributed the drop in D.C. cases to the city's new foreclosure prevention program. It requires mortgage companies to mediate with homeowners before foreclosing unlike before when they only needed to file a foreclosure notice.

"It's taking the pressure off of homeowners to seek bankruptcy protection, and consequently people are holding off even when they're not paying their mortgages," Ammerman told the newspaper.

The director of the American Bankruptcy Institute said the new law isn't the only factor in reduced bankruptcy filings. He said because consumers are spending less, their debt burden has dropped. That debt is the leading cause of personal bankruptcies.

While new laws and the economic downturn have helped some avoid bankruptcy, others are not as fortunate. With debt piling up and the threat of foreclosure on the horizon for some homeowners, making a plan for debt relief is critical to regain control. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer in the Washington D.C. area can help homeowners understand their rights and discuss suitable options.

Source: The Washington Examiner, "Bankruptcy filings drop in Washington area," Amy Myers, Aug. 13, 2011

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