The nine-digit ZIP code defense

Can a creditor avoid trouble with the bankruptcy court by claiming they never received notice of the case because the notices were sent with an incorrect nine-digit ZIP code?

Not in New Hampshire, it turns out. The debtor in the Mosher case was so incensed that her homeowner association kept sending her bills and letters after she filed for bankruptcy, that she sued them and took them to a full trial before Judge Vaughn in the Bankruptcy Court in Manchester, N.H.

The homeowner’s association, called the Meadows at Chickering, defended the case by denying they had ever received any notices concerning the bankruptcy. The claimed that notices mailed to them with a ZIP code of 03110-6981 wouldn’t reach them, because they should have been addressed to 03310-7059.

The differing ZIP codes weren’t enough to save the association from some hot water, however, as Judge Vaugn was not convinced that the difference in the last four digits was enough to keep official court notices from reaching the defendants. Accordingly, he found that the homeowners association had willfully violated the automatic stay generated by the bankruptcy case, by continuing to send the debtor statements and a letter.

While the judge refused to award the debtor damages for emotional distress, he did order the Meadows at Chickering to pay $2,400.00 of the debtor’s legal fees.

When you file a bankruptcy case, violations of the automatic stay are serious business. If you have filed a bankruptcy case, but are still getting calls and letters that you don’t think are appropriate, tell your bankruptcy attorney right away; he may be able to stop the problem in its tracks.


By Doug Beaton

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