January's 245 filings are more than three times the monthly average of 2006
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 2, 2011
The number of Hawaii residents filing for bankruptcy fell last month to the lowest level in more than a year, but the number of cases remained relatively high compared with pre-recession levels.
The 245 bankruptcy cases filed in January was 11.2 percent fewer than the same month a year earlier and marked the smallest number of cases since 219 were filed in November 2009, according to figures released yesterday by U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Bankruptcies climbed steadily through the recession, peaking last year at 3,954 cases, or 330 cases per month on average. That compares with monthly averages of 80 cases in 2006 and 115 cases in 2007.
SEEKING RELIEFBankruptcy filings in January rose from a year ago:
» Chapter 11: Business reorganization
» Chapter 13: Individuals with regular sources of income set up plans to pay creditors over time.
» Chapter 15: Facilitates the bankruptcies of companies that have assets in several countries
Source: U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Hawaii
Honolulu bankruptcy attorney Michael Glenn said he has yet to see any evidence of the slowing suggested by the Bankruptcy Court data.
"I don't really sense any change in circumstances over the past eight months. People are still on thin ice," he said.
Glenn said many of his clients with large debt loads have managed to stave off bankruptcy until now by relying on friends and family. "They're filing now because they've exhausted all their other rescues."
Because debtors are much closer to the tipping point than they were three or four years ago, it doesn't take much to force them into bankruptcy, Glenn added. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many creditors are not willing to offer them debt workout plans, he said.
"Credit card lenders are not so keen on forbearance these days. They're suing for less than $1,000 owed."
Honolulu County experienced the biggest decline in bankruptcy cases with the number dropping 18 percent to 141 in January from 172 a year earlier, according to the Bankruptcy Court data. The 49 cases filed in Maui County was 10.1 percent lower than in January 2010. Filings in Kauai County rose 14.3 percent to 16 cases, while the Big island experienced an 11.4 percent increase to 39 cases.
Statewide there were 213 Chapter 7 liquidation cases and 61 Chapter 13 cases filed in January.