Bankruptcy filings in the Buffalo-Rochester region continued to decline in January.
Maintaining a long-term trend, the number of filings dropped 13 percent from January 2013 to 376, the lowest in the combined region for that month since 2006, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court data.
The number of filings in Buffalo declined 4 percent in January, while Rochester’s total decreased 25 percent. Buffalo accounted for 64 percent of the cases filed.
On an annual basis, new bankruptcy filings have declined in the Buffalo-Rochester area for four consecutive years, from 2010 through 2013. Experts point to a number of factors driving the trend: less free spending by consumers, an improved job market, and lenders being more restrictive about distributing credit cards.
Jeffrey Freedman of Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys said bankruptcies nowadays often stem from burdensome medical expenses, as well as aggressive tactics by debt collection firms. Some debtors feel intimidated by aggressive collectors, and they end up paying those bills ahead of expenses such as mortgage or car payments, and they fall deeper into financial trouble, he said. “Many times the people that make the most threats are going to get paid,” he said.
Freedman noted that many people with jobs are using credit cards more responsibly and staying out of bankruptcy.
Of the 376 cases filed in January in the Buffalo-Rochester market, 265 of them were Chapter 7 cases. In Chapter 7, debtors can liquidate their assets to pay off debts and then erase any remaining amounts owed so they can start over.