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Bankruptcy filings in Western New York dropped nearly 15 percent in May from a year ago, continuing a recent trend of declines.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York reported 542 new petitions were filed last month in Buffalo and Rochester, down from 636 a year ago. It was the sixth consecutive year-over-year decline in new filings.

Buffalo accounted for 337 – or 53 percent – of the new petitions, while Rochester accounted for the other 205.

Across the district, the number of new filings for the first five months of the year was down 12 percent from the same period in 2012. In Buffalo alone, the total was down 13.4 percent.

Brad Davidzik, an attorney with Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, said he believes a few factors are contributing to the ongoing drop in new filings.

One factor, he said, is the fallout from the housing crisis that spawned a wave of foreclosures. Davidzik said tougher scrutiny of lenders’ foreclosure practices has slowed the process dramatically, and, by extension, could be prompting more individuals to delay filing for bankruptcy. “Even a foreclosure that does proceed takes a year or more,” Davidzik said.

Similarly, he said, some people may have stopped paying their mortgages and are directing those payments to other bills and expenses, keeping them from needing to file for bankruptcy.

Another factor is stricter standards for credit, a climate that has prevented people from getting in over their heads in credit card debt or buying cars for dollar amounts beyond their means, Davidzik said.

Of the 337 new bankruptcy filings in May in Buffalo, 72 percent were non-business Chapter 7 cases. Those cases allow debtors to liquidate their assets to pay off debts and then erase any remaining amounts owed so they can start over.

email: mglynn@buffnews.com