What constitutes a violation of the automatic stay?

My wife filed for Chapter 7 (we live in a community property state). I did not file. Our electric company is listed as a creditor. The day the case was filed, we notified it of the case and provided the case number. However, 5 days later, it shut off service. When contacted and reminded of the bankruptcy, it stated that because service is in my name alone and the bankruptcy is only in my wife’s name, it is not prohibited from disconnection and it would not restore service without a payment agreement that included a plan to pay the past due amount. Since they took action against the debts and assets of the bankruptcy estate, is this not a violation of the automatic stay?

Asked on August 5, 2014 under Bankruptcy Law, Arizona


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The act must be deemed "willful" and if it is found to be such can subject the creditor to great fines and costs.  Now, "technical" violations - such as computer generated actions - may not be deemed "willful" and if the electric was cut off because in fact the account was in your name (and that could be a loophole here even in a community property state) then the electric company may have an out.  I would speak with the Trustee. Good luck.

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