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'Serial filer' loses home after 18th bankruptcy petition

When threatened with the loss of a home, many Atlanta residents would do anything to save it. For many people, a home is more than a house. Lives unfold inside the places we call home. Many people start a family, watch their children take their first steps, and create millions of other memories in a home. The idea of losing a place so sacred can be devastating. 

When faced with foreclosure, however, there are right ways to move forward and wrong ways. One Florida man took a unique approach to saving his home, but ultimately, it cost him. 

Faced with financial hardship, the man stopped making mortgage payments on his family's home in 2001. Although he filed for bankruptcy, he did not file correctly, so the court dismissed his case. As U.S. Bank readied to sell his house in foreclosure, he filed again, which halted the process.

Because the man never made payments on his home, this routine went on for years. The bank would initiate foreclosure, and he would file for bankruptcy just before the house was set to be sold. Between him and his wife, the pair filed for bankruptcy 18 times in the last 12 years. Each time, they filed for Chapter 13, which requires a person to pay back creditors to some extent. 

Eventually, however, the bankruptcy court caught on. Several of the man's filings were dismissed because he did not provide necessary information. In 2011, a judge ruled that he had to wait two years before he could file for bankruptcy again. Then, after complaints from his homeowners association, the judge accused him of bankruptcy abuse and ruled that he could not file again until 2015. 

Ultimately, the family lost their home. 

Any time a family is forced to leave their home, it is unfortunate. However, this man went about saving his home in the wrong way. Rather than being honest about his situation, he tried to game the system -- and it cost him. Bankruptcy, however, can be an extremely effective tool for avoiding foreclosure if implemented in the right way. 

The importance of working with an attorney cannot be understated. Bankruptcy laws are extremely complex, and as we saw in this case, providing the right information is of utmost importance. By being honest and complete in your bankruptcy filing, it may be possible to save your home. 

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Meet the Palm Harbor man who is 12 years behind on his mortgage payments," Susan Taylor Martin, April 11, 2014