In In re Banks, — B.R. —-, 2014 WL 5320539 (Bkrtcy.M.D.Ga. 2014), Judge Carter held that a finance company who finances a vehicle for a Chapter 13 debtor who acquires the vehicle post-petition and post-confirmation, but pre-discharge, violates the automatic stay by repossessing the vehicle on default.
The Debtor filed a Chapter 13 Voluntary Petition on August 5, 2013. On December 18, 2013, this Court entered an Order confirming the Debtor’s Chapter 13 Plan. The Plan, as confirmed, provides that “[a]ll property of the [Debtor] shall remain property of the estate for the duration of the plan.” According to the testimony at the hearing from Mark Hoffman,FN2 Kam’s Chief Executive Officer, the Debtor purchased a 2005 Isuzu Ascender LS 4 from Kam’s on March 14, 2014. The purchase price of the vehicle was $6,995. The Debtor paid $600 as a down-payment, and the remainder of the purchase price was financed by Kam’s, which retained a purchase-money security interest in the vehicle. At the time of sale, a representative of Kam’s informed the Debtor that she could not buy the vehicle if she were “in bankruptcy,” and asked her if she were in a pending bankruptcy case. However, the Debtor did not reveal to Kam’s that this bankruptcy case was pending. Consequently, at the time of the sale, Kam’s did not have actual knowledge of the Debtor’s pending bankruptcy case. On June 27, 2014, the Debtor filed an Amendment to her schedules to include the vehicle on her Schedule B and list Kam’s as a creditor (with a $9,000 secured claim) on her Schedule D. The Amendment’s Certificate of Service reflects service on Kam’s by mail on June 27, 2014. On June 28, 2014, Kam’s received a telephone call from the Debtor’s counsel notifying Kam’s of the Debtor’s bankruptcy and the filing of the Amendment. Kam’s received the Amendment by mail shortly thereafter. At some time after purchase of the vehicle but prior to its repossession (the exact date is unclear from the record), the Debtor ceased making payments on the vehicle and ceased taking telephone calls from Kam’s. Apparently on advice of counsel, Kam’s repossessed the vehicle on July 22, 2014, nearly a month after receiving notice of the Debtor’s bankruptcy case and receiving the Amendment. As of the date of the hearing, Kam’s was still in possession of the vehicle. The Debtor requests that the Court hold that Kam’s repossession of the vehicle violated the automatic stay created by § 362(a) and that she accordingly be awarded damages in the amount of $1,500 and attorneys’ fees in the amount of $500. Property of the estate includes, in addition to the property specified in [§ 541] … all property of the kind specified in [§ 541] that the debtor acquires after the commencement of the case but before the case is closed, dismissed, or converted to [another Chapter], whichever occurs first. Id. § 1306(a)(1). Under this statute it would appear that property acquired by a debtor at any time while her Chapter 13 case is pending will be property of the estate in that case and will be accordingly protected by the stay. However, in a Chapter 13 case the court must also consider § 1327(b), which states that “[e]xcept as otherwise provided in the plan or the order confirming the plan, the confirmation of a plan vests all of the property of the estate in the debtor.” Id. § 1327(b). In this case, the Plan provides that “[a]ll property of the [Debtor] shall remain property of the estate for the duration of the plan,” so the default vesting provision in § 1327(b) does not apply. Kam’s argues that the Eleventh Circuit decision in Telfair v. First Union Mortgage Corp. (In re Telfair), 216 F.3d 1333 (11th Cir.2000), mandates a ruling by this Court that the vehicle is not property of the estate because it was acquired after confirmation of the Debtor’s Plan, and that, therefore, no stay violation has occurred. In contrast, the Debtor distinguishes Telfair on the grounds that, unlike the plan in Telfair, her Plan contains a non-vesting provision, and that the vehicle therefore remains property of the estate and did not vest in the Debtor. As explained below, however, the holding in Telfair does not apply to this case. . . . Although Waldron’s holding does not directly address the automatic stay, it necessitates the conclusion that property acquired post-confirmation by a Chapter 13 debtor is protected by the automatic stay. By its plain language, § 362(a) provides that the stay protects all “property of the estate,” and this Court is bound by the plain language of the statute unless “the literal application of a statute will produce a result demonstrably at odds with the intentions of its drafters.” United States v. Ron Pair Enters., Inc., 489 U.S. 235, 242, 109 S.Ct. 1026, 103 L.Ed.2d 290 (1989) (quoting Griffin v. Oceanic Contractors, Inc., 458 U.S. 564, 571, 102 S.Ct. 3245, 73 L.Ed.2d 973 (1982)). The plain language of the statute is not demonstrably at odds with the drafters’ intent, as demonstrated by the purposes of the automatic stay outlined above. Accordingly, the Court holds that the automatic stay under § 362 applies to property interests acquired by a Chapter 13 debtor after confirmation of her plan but before the closure of her case. Applying this holding to the facts before the Court, the Debtor obtained this vehicle March 14, 2014, which is after the date that her Plan was confirmed, December 18, 2013. As of July 22, 2014, the date of repossession, the Debtor’s case had neither been closed, nor dismissed, nor converted. Therefore, the vehicle was property of the estate, and Kam’s repossession and withholding of the vehicle violated the automatic stay. . . Accordingly, the Court holds that Kam’s violated the stay.