State bankruptcies decelerate


POSTED: Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hawaii bankruptcy filings in November slipped 1.4 percent from a year earlier, the first month-over-month decrease in more than three years, according to preliminary figures from U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Despite the drop, Honolulu bankruptcy attorney Michael Glenn doesn't see a downward trend developing.

“;I have 15 cases pending, waiting to be filed,”; he said.

The 212 cases filed last month barely eclipsed the previous 2009 low of 208 in January. Figures might slightly change since filings could be made yesterday until midnight.

The last month-over-month decrease occurred in October 2006 when there were 85 filings. That was 94.2 percent lower than the 1,463 filed in October 2005 when people rushed to file ahead of a change in the federal law that made it more expensive and difficult to seek bankruptcy.

Everything Glenn has read about looming foreclosures, an increase in the amount of mortgages coming due and defaults on federally insured mortgages leads him to believe that “;until the real estate crisis is handled,”; there will be no improvement in Hawaii's bankruptcy numbers. Besides, many people don't want to file for bankruptcy or for divorce during the holidays, he said. Glenn also practices family law, criminal cases, landlord-tenant matters and other areas of law.




Looking for relief

        Statewide filings through the past 12 months:

Nov. 2009*212
Oct. 2009274
Sept. 2009283
Aug. 2009258
July 2009270
June 2009271
May 2009250
April 2009251
March 2009270
Feb. 2009226
Jan. 2009208
Dec. 2008223
Nov. 2008215

        * Preliminary number Source: Office of the U.S. Trustee




Another common occurrence is for people to file in the new year when holiday bills arrive “;and income's back to normal,”; he said.

“;The problem I'm seeing here is that a lot of people are losing their homes and have no place to go,”; Glenn said. “;They struggle, they decide to pay for food ... and don't pay off their debt.”;

People are using their income to survive, “;as opposed to, say, five years ago when they were choosing to live beyond their means,”; Glenn said.

More and more, bankruptcy seems like an informed choice people are making.

One of his clients was hit with lawsuits by four creditors in a month's time, “;all trying to get those limited wages he has.”; He does not dispute the debt, but is unable to pay what they demand and still house and feed himself.

Many people who contemplate bankruptcy can't afford the filing fee.

“;I wish more people knew it was not only an option for them, but an option for their friends,”; because “;the best gift you can give someone in debt is a fresh start,”; said Glenn.