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Lessors who repossess property immediately prior to a lessee bankruptcy filing may be required to return such property or face sanctions by the bankruptcy court. Federal courts are currently split on the issue of whether the lessor must voluntary surrender property seized pre-petition or may hold such property until such time as the debtor seeks, and obtains, an order of turnover. In June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit weighed in and decided four appeals involving chapter 13 debtor filings following the City of Chicago’s seizure of vehicles based on unpaid fines. See, In re Fulton, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 18393 (7th Cir. 2019). In Fulton, the Seventh Circuit ruled that the City of Chicago must comply with the automatic stay by returning impounded cars immediately after being notified of a chapter 13 filing. (The Fulton decision is not the first time the Seventh Circuit decided the issues presented. In 2009, the court held that a creditor must comply with the automatic stay and return a debtor’s vehicle upon her filing of a bankruptcy petition. See, Thompson v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 566 F.3d 699 (7th Cir. 2009)).
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By Carol A. Sigmond
New York City is seeing an upsurge of deed theft. Attorneys, architects, title companies, real estate brokers, agents, contractors, developers and construction managers need to be alert to this potential issue when blocks of properties are assembled for development in these neighborhoods.
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