Bankruptcy rate falling, but Utah still fourth-highest in U.S.
Utahns are filing for bankruptcy in fewer numbers these days, with the state on track to see the first significant annual decline in insolvencies since shortly after Congress revamped the law in 2005 to make it tougher to file.
Despite the decline, Utah's numbers remain comparatively high nationally with the state claiming the fourth-highest filing rate per capita during the first nine months of 2012 5.99 petitions for every 1,000 people, the American Bankruptcy Institute reports.
The average nationwide per capita filing rate was 3.97 petitions for every 1,000 people.
According to David Sime, clerk of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Utah, filings by Utahns dropped 13 percent in the first nine months.
"We've seen a pretty steady decline in the rate going back into late 2011," he said.
Filings nationwide also are down, declining 14 percent, according to the institute, a nonprofit research organization that tracks insolvency filings and related issues.
"We remain on pace for the lowest total bankruptcies [nationally] since before the financial crisis in 2008," said the institute's executive director, Samuel J. Gerdano. "Sustained low interest rates and weak consumer spending will continue to slow bankruptcies through the end of 2012."
Although the number of bankruptcies in Utah is down significantly this year, there hasn't been a similar slowdown in the number of Utahns seeking help for their financial problems as they try to avoid the ultimate solution to too many bills and not enough money in their bank accounts.
"Our business hasn't dropped off. But we do seem to be seeing more people who are really buckling down and being more proactive in dealing with their debts," said Preston Cochrane, president of AAA Fair Credit Foundation in Salt Lake City.
Cochrane added, however, that were he to guess why bankruptcy numbers are falling so dramatically, it could be that because of the recession and tepid recovery some Utahns just don't have the money to file. "Others may be holding off thinking they'll get a tax refund, or maybe they just don't want to deal during the upcoming holiday season with having filed bankruptcy."
Of the 12,680 Utahns who have sought bankruptcy this year, 32 percent filed for Chapter 13, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Utah. Chapter 13 gives consumers typically wage earners the opportunity to formulate a plan to repay their obligations over time.
The remaining 68 percent filed for Chapter 7, which involves a trustee liquidating a debtor's assets and distributing the proceeds to creditors.