To Our Clients & Prospective Clients -- As of March 18, 2020, Starr & Starr, PLLC remains open for business during the current Corona virus (COVID-19) crisis. We remain in communications with our clients by phone, email and our secure file share site. We are scheduling telephone consultations by phone and video chat. At this time the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts, the U.S. District Courts and New York State Court system are all open. We are continuing to file new cases and process our existing cases.

We hope everyone stays safe throughout these difficult times.

Articles Posted in Personal Bankruptcy

When a borrower/debtor owes money to a bank and also has money on deposit with the bank, the bank has a right to setoff the debt owed to it against the funds on deposit. This right is based on the contract with the bank the debtor signed when he or she first opened the account as well as the general common law.

1. How does a bank setoff work?

Setoff means that the bank has the right to offset the debt owed to it against the funds it holds on deposit in any account of the debtor, including checking, savings, money market, and certificates of deposit (CDs). The bank is not required to provide advance notice to the debtor of its intention to exercise its right of setoff. The bank deducts the funds from the debtor’s account and credits them against the debt owed to the bank. Once the bank has setoff the debtor’s funds against the debt owed to the bank this may cause the debtor’s account to overdraft because the account will have insufficient funds to cover outstanding checks after the bank has setoff. For people whose paycheck is directly deposited to their bank, an additional problem is that they can find their funds swept up by the bank on an ongoing basis for more than one pay period.
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A common question we get is “How long will a judgment stay on my credit report in New York.”

A judgment stays on someone’s credit report for seven years. However, even though a judgment may no longer appear on someone’s credit report, that does not mean that the judgment is no longer enforceable. A judgment in New York is valid for twenty years. During that time it can enforced against a judgment debtor’s income and assets.
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The current recession is causing financial hardship for many people. Many people in New York find themselves with no work, or with lower income and hours than they had before. Debt collectors and collection lawyers don’t stop trying to collect debts just because we are in a recession or someone has lost his or her job.

1. Misleading and Extensive Advertising by Debt Settlement Companies.

Many people fall victim to misleading advertising schemes of the so-called debt settlement companies (also known as debt negotiation). They run constant ads on TV and radio with very sympathetic, “common Joe and Jane” type characters who explain how they had financial problems until they call the debt settlement company running the ad. Often, to try to target particular ethnic or immigrant communities, the ads use the patois and words that someone hearing the add from that community would identify with (for example, the ads targeting the Caribbean community have speakers that a listener would identify with as someone from the Caribbean).

2. Failure to Identify that Creditor Participation in Debt Settlement is Voluntary..

The critical thing that the debt settlement companies fail to clearly and prominently disclosure upfront in their advertising and promotional materials is that that participation of creditors (such as banks and credit card companies) in a debt settlement program is entirely voluntary. If a bank or credit card company does not want to participate THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING THAT THE DEBT SETTLEMENT COMPANY CAN DO TO FORCE IT TO PARTICIPATE. This means that you might hire a debt settlement company and stop paying all of your creditors as they instruct you to do while they propose a debt settlement plan, and in the meantime you may get sued by one of your creditors. This is very common and we see it all the time. We believe this is misleading practice of the debt settlement industry that should be stopped.

Bankruptcy, on the other hand, is not a voluntary process. Bankruptcy is a mandatory process and unsecured creditors (such as they typical credit card debt) don’t get to ignore it and sue you if they want to. But they can in debt settlement Continue reading

Many people considering filing for personal bankruptcy in New York have not hired a lawyer before and are not sure how to select a lawyer. Since they are not familiar with lawyers and how to evaluate and compare one lawyer with another, they focus on the one factor that they understand – the cost. While cost is certainly one factor to consider when choosing a lawyer, it is not the only factor.

1. Bankruptcy Is More Complex Due to the 2005 Changes in the Bankruptcy Law.

In 2005 as a result of credit card company lobbying the Bankruptcy Code was extensively changed by Congress. These changed created new duties for bankruptcy attorneys and made representation of consumer debtors in bankruptcy cases much more complicated than it was before. As a result, those lawyers who only dabbled in bankruptcy stopped taking new bankruptcy cases. Those lawyers who specialized in bankruptcy cases raised their rates to account for the increased cost and complexity of cases after the 2005 changes.
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We are often contacted by former and prospective clients in Manhattan and other boroughs of New York City, and elsewhere, who are faced with a potential eviction involving a commercial or residential lease and wonder what their bankruptcy options are.

1. Bankruptcy Filing Creates Automatic Stay

A bankruptcy filing by the tenant (whether residential or commercial) creates an “automatic stay.” This is a mandatory injunction that arises by operation of law without the need for a hearing or order of the Bankruptcy Court. The automatic stay operates like a legal “Stop Sign” to freeze a creditor’s efforts to pursue collections, litigation or judgment enforcement. The automatic stay operates to protect the debtor and the property of the debtor’s bankruptcy estate.

In the case of a lease, whether commercial or residential, the critical issue is whether a writ of eviction has already been issued from the landlord-tenant court. There is a significant body of case law from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York and U.S. Bankruptcy Court (covering Manhattan, Bronx and White Plains) and U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York (covering Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island) that once a writ of eviction has issued from the landlord-tenant court the interest of the tenant in the lease has terminated.
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A creditor can start an involuntary bankruptcy case in New York City against a debtor (either a person or business) who owes the creditor money. An involuntary bankruptcy case is a bankruptcy case started by creditors. If a debtor has more than 12 creditors who are owed at least $13,475 as a group, those creditors can file an involuntary bankruptcy case against the debtor if they can establish that the debtor is not paying his, her or its debts as they become due. Also the debts must be fixed and liquidated in amount and not contingent (meaning that nothing else has to happen to fix liability – such as a judgment in a personal injury case resulting from an accident). In addition, the claims cannot be subject to bona fide dispute as to liability or amount — if there is a valid and legitimate dispute about the debt it can’t be the basis for an involuntary bankruptcy case.

If a debtor has less than 12 creditors in all, one petitioning creditor owed at least $13,475 can commence an involuntary bankruptcy petition against the debtor.
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New York is a destination for many people relocating here for work, school or personal reasons. Many people are surprised to find out how expensive the cost of living is here compared to many other parts of the country. Many people underestimate their costs of housing and other living expenses which causes a lot of problems for their budget.

A common question we get asked is “How long do I have to live in New York before I can file for bankruptcy here?”

The rule is that you have to have lived here more in the past 180 days than anywhere else. So, for example, if someone moved here from Ohio, she would need to live in New York at least 91 days before she could file for bankruptcy here.
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If you have past-due tax debt that you owe to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), New York State Department of Taxation & Finance (NYS Tax), and/or New York City Department of Taxation (NYC Tax) you know that the government authorities can be very aggressive in enforcing back due taxes.

1. Problems & Risk of Owing Past-Due Tax Debts.

If you have past-due taxes the balances continue to grow over time because of interest and penalties. The government can intercept any tax refunds that you are entitled to receive from them and apply the money against your past-due taxes. They can garnish your wages. They can put a lien on your assets. They can seize your bank accounts, car, house and other properties.

2. Bankruptcy Solutions to Tax Problems.

For many people with past-due taxes bankruptcy may be a way to either (a) get their finances affairs in order so they have money to deal with the taxes, or (b) a way to wipe out the taxes.

a) Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Solutions.

In the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on our website Will all my debts get discharged (wiped out) in bankruptcy?) we have provided a general overview of the rules regarding discharging debt in a personal bankruptcy filing. For some people filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy will be a way that they can permanently eliminate their past-due taxes without having to pay them. To figure our whether or not your taxes can be wiped out in bankruptcy you will need to know exactly what taxes you owe and for what years. You can contact the IRS, NYS Tax and NYC Tax and follow their procedures to order copies of your “tax transcript” for each tax year you have an unpaid balance. We have successfully used chapter 7 bankruptcy to help many of our clients permanently eliminate their taxes.
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The purpose of this blog post is to provide information about bankruptcy to the gay and lesbian community in New York City that uniquely affects them.

As a result of the 2005 changes to the Bankruptcy Code, for gays and lesbians considering filing for personal bankruptcy there are certain things they will need to consider. In addition, there are certain provisions of the Bankruptcy Code that may affect the rights of gays and lesbians differently than heterosexuals.

First of all, for consumer debtors (i.e., debtors whose debts are primarily for personal, family or household debts and not for a business), the 2005 amendments to the Bankruptcy Code established means testing (see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) of the Starr & Starr, PLLC website: What is the “means test” for chapter 7 and why is it important? ).
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Student Loans Problems in New York City

Many people in New York, and particularly in Manhattan, have large student loans for undergraduate and graduate college education. A student loan debtor (person who owes money for a student loan) can often obtain deferment or consolidation of his or her student loans to delay making payment or lower the payments. However, for people with very large student loans and income that is lower than they had anticipated, student loans can be an enormous problem. This is especially the case for someone who never finished his or her course of study or obtained a degree, or obtained a degree for which there is not much demand in the marketplace. In addition, if someone obtained an expensive graduate degree, such as medicine or law, but but is working in a lower paying field than his or her field of study this is particularly a problem. Finally, the cost of living in New York is one of the highest in the country and people living here have a significantly higher cost of living than in many other states.

Due to changes in the law regarding student loans, there is no statute of limitation for student loans — meaning the loans do not become unenforceable by the passage of time. This means that long after someone is out of school he or she can still be saddled with high student loans.
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