When are Chapter 13 Claims Filed?

Creditors are requested to file proofs of claim in every chapter 13 bankruptcy case (which is in contrast to chapter 7 bankruptcy cases). A proof of claim is a relatively simple document wherein a creditor states the amount owed and basic nature of a debt, along with supporting documentation to extent required by bankruptcy rule. While a chapter 13 plan (proposed by the debtor) controls what debts are eligible to be paid in a plan, no debts are actually paid by a trustee without a claim being filed. Generally three ingredients are needed to pay a debt in chapter 13: (i) the plan proposes to pay it; (ii) the plan is confirmed, and (iii) a claim is filed for the debt.

Bankruptcy Rule 3002(c) sets the time for filing claims in chapter 13 cases. For most creditors, the deadline is set at 90 days from the first meeting of creditors, which works out to be a deadline about 4-5 months into the case. Governmental claims, such as taxes, get a different deadline, typically 180 days from the filing of the case.

Some creditors file a proof of claim very fast, as early as the day after the chapter 13 case is filed. Others file late, perhaps even on the deadline date. For illustrative purposes, I ran some simple statistics. In my arbitrary sample of cases, about 35% of claims were filed in the first 30 days. A further 15% were filed in the next 30 days (day 31 to 60), 9% more in the next 30 days, and the remainder (41%) after 90 days. About 13% were filed within the 10 days prior to the claims bar date (deadline). Note that I did not account for government claims in these figures.

A lot of the variation can be attributed to the business practices of particular creditors. Some creditors get electronic notice of the case and have all documentation at hand. Others might get paper notice or need to locate and obtain supporting documents. Still others sell the debt or hire a third-party to handle the claim.

The type of the claim matters as well. Frequently, car loan claims are filed quickly, as these lenders may be entitled to an adequate protection payment in chapter 13. Such a payment is disbursed pre-confirmation, but the creditor can't get it until a claim is filed. On the other hand, mortgage claims often take a long time to be filed. Some of this may be due to the relatively more extensive documentation required to properly document a mortgage claim. It's also true that the consequences are mild for a mortgage creditor who files a claim late, so the incentive for mortgage banks to act quickly is not often present.

If a proof of claim is not filed on time, the debtor has the option to file a claim so that creditor is paid. Otherwise, a creditor without a claim doesn't share in any distribution from the chapter 13 process. For many unsecured debts, this is a positive outcome to the bankruptcy debtor.

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