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Secured Loans in Bankruptcy

 A loan is “secured” when property is pledged by the borrower as collateral. Should the borrower fail to repay the loan, the collateral is taken by the lender and sold to repay the debt. There are two types of secured loans: (1) purchase money security interest loans; and (2) non-purchase money security interest loans.

Purchase money security interest loans (PMSI) occur when the lender loans money that the borrower uses to purchase a specific item and the lender retains a secured interest in the item. This is commonly the case with motor vehicles. The bank lends to the borrower for the specific purpose of purchasing an identified vehicle, and the bank takes a lien on the vehicle. PMSI loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. However, under certain circumstances a PMSI loan can be “crammed down” by the bankruptcy court so that the amount owed is equal to the value of the collateral.

Non-purchase money security interest loans (NPMSI) occur when the borrower already owns property that is used as collateral for a loan. For instance, a borrower may take a loan from a finance company and use household goods and/or jewelry as collateral for the loan. The bankruptcy laws allow the debtor to exempt (up to a certain amount) household goods and jewelry, so the NPMSI loan can be avoided to the extent that the loan impairs the legal exemption.

For example, let’s say that you take a loan from a finance company for $500 and secure it with your television worth $400. If you apply your legal household goods exemption to protect the full value of your television ($400), the finance company’s loan impairs the exemption. After the bankruptcy court grants a Motion to Avoid Lien filed by your bankruptcy attorney, the television is fully protected and the creditor is left with an unsecured loan.

The bankruptcy laws contain many powerful provisions for protecting property. If you are in debt and need legal relief, speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney and discover how the federal bankruptcy laws can discharge your debts, safeguard your property, and provide the financial fresh start you need.