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New bankruptcy filings in Buffalo jumped in October from a year earlier, in the biggest one-year increase in nearly three years.

According to new figures from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York, the number of new cases submitted to the Buffalo and Rochester courts last month rose 7.1 percent, to 571 from 533.

That was driven by a 13 percent increase in Buffalo filings, to 409 from 362 – the largest gain since December 2009. Meanwhile, Rochester filings fell 5.3 percent, to 162 from 171, continuing a multiyear trend of declining new cases.

Bankruptcy filings have been falling almost every month since early 2010, as the recession and sluggish economic recovery have taken their toll on Americans. While the economy has now started to show some signs of improvement, conditions had become so bad for many debtors that they could not even afford the court and attorney fees to file for bankruptcy protection, and didn’t have enough income or assets to need protection from creditors. As a result, many simply walked away from debts, and filings plunged steadily.

So far this year, total filings have fallen 11.4 percent to 5,367 throughout the district, which also includes smaller courts in Olean, Batavia and Watkins Glen. That includes a 10.1 percent drop in Buffalo, to 3,551, and a 13.7 percent decline in Rochester, to 1,816.

Debtors can file for protection under one of several sections or chapters of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Chapter 7 allows either consumers or businesses to liquidate their assets to pay off whatever they can, while erasing the rest of their unsecured debts – such as credit cards – so they can start over. Chapters 11 and 13 require businesses and consumers, respectively, to file reorganization plans to repay debts over time.

For October, there were 356 cases filed under Chapter 7, including 245 in Buffalo and 111 in Rochester. All but two in Buffalo and five in Rochester were individual or consumer cases.

There were also 208 Chapter 13 cases, including 157 in Buffalo and 51 in Rochester. All but two in Buffalo were individual cases. And there were seven Chapter 11 filings, all in Buffalo.

So far this year, debtors have filed 3,883 Chapter 7 cases, 1,439 Chapter 13 cases and 43 Chapter 11 cases in Western New York, plus two filings under other portions of the federal law.

Geographically in October, 304 cases were filed in Erie County and 42 in Niagara County, leading the eight-county Buffalo area. Another 18 were filed in Chautauqua County, 14 in Genesee County, 13 in Cattaraugus County, eight in Wyoming County and five each in Allegany and Orleans counties.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com