United States Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the First Circuit
JANICE LORRAINE STEVENSON, a/k/a Janice Wilson Stevenson, Debtor.
TND HOMES I, LP, Appellee. JANICE LORRAINE STEVENSON, Appellant,
from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of
Massachusetts (Hon. Frank J. Bailey, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge)
Lorraine Stevenson, Pro Se, on brief for Appellant.
D. Carman, Esq., on brief for Appellee.
Lamoutte, Finkle, and Harwood, United States Bankruptcy
Appellate Panel Judges.
Lamoutte, U.S. Bankruptcy Appellate Panel Judge.
Lorraine Stevenson ("Stevenson") appeals pro se
from the bankruptcy court's August 3, 2017 order
dismissing her chapter 13 case (the "Dismissal
Order"). For the reasons discussed below, we
filed a petition for chapter 7 relief on September 8, 2016.
At that time, there was a summary process action pending
against her in state court in which her landlord, TND Homes
I, LP ("TND"), alleged nonpayment of rent in
connection with her lease of a residential apartment (the
"Property"). TND filed a motion for relief from the
automatic stay (the "motion for relief"), seeking
authorization to continue the summary process action.
Stevenson opposed the motion for relief, accusing TND of
"erroneous billing practices." Following a hearing,
the bankruptcy court denied TND's request for relief from
the automatic stay, on the condition that Stevenson make
certain rent payments to TND. In addition, the court directed
TND to correct its electronic records to accurately reflect
the amounts Stevenson owed.
subsequently moved to voluntarily dismiss the summary process
action after receiving full payment of the rent amounts due
from Stevenson. Stevenson received a discharge on January 6,
2017, and her bankruptcy case was closed on February 14,
receiving her discharge, Stevenson again stopped paying rent.
According to TND, Stevenson also "persisted in her
refusal to complete recertification paperwork,
" failed to permit inspection of her unit,
and violated her lease by keeping a dog on the Property. TND
issued a 30-day notice to quit on February 24, 2017, and on
April 10, 2017, commenced a new summary process action
against Stevenson alleging that her tenancy had been
terminated for cause. Stevenson filed an answer and
counterclaim in the summary process action, asserting that
the Property lacked heat and hot water. The state court
scheduled the matter for a bench trial on April 20, 2017.
April 21, 2017, Stevenson filed a petition for chapter 13
relief, thereby commencing the bankruptcy case that is the
subject of this appeal. By letter dated May 3, 2017, TND
notified the state court of Stevenson's bankruptcy filing
and requested a stay of the summary process
Schedule A/B: Property, Stevenson reported $30, 000.00 worth
of assets, $20, 000.00 of which represented the surrender
value of an insurance policy. She listed no creditors on
Schedule D: Creditors Who Have Claims Secured by Property. On
her Amended Schedule E/F: Creditors Who have Unsecured
Claims, Stevenson listed only two creditors: Educational
Credit Management Corporation ("ECMC"), with a
claim of $15, 000.00; and Navient, with a claim of $5,
000.00. On Schedule G: Executory Contracts and
Unexpired Leases, Stevenson identified the residential lease
April 24, 2017, the bankruptcy court issued a notice stating
that Stevenson was "not entitled to a discharge in
bankruptcy because of prior case filings." The
bankruptcy court issued another notice on the same date,
warning Stevenson that, as a "repeat filer, " her
rights might be affected by § 362(c)(3) and/or
Thereafter, Stevenson filed a motion to extend the automatic
stay pursuant to § 362(c)(3)(B). The bankruptcy court
ruled that the motion was moot because the automatic stay was
still in effect, explaining: "Although [Stevenson] filed
a prior case . . . within the preceding [ ] year, that case
was not dismissed and, therefore, [§] 362(c)(3) does not
2, 2017, TND filed a motion to dismiss Stevenson's
chapter 13 case (the "Motion to Dismiss") pursuant
to § 1307(c), asserting that "[a] chapter 13 case
can be dismissed for cause when it is demonstrated that the
case was not filed in good faith." TND contended that
Stevenson had not filed her petition in good faith but,
rather, for the sole purpose of "delay[ing] and
frustrat[ing] TND, " and preventing the prosecution of
the summary process action. Arguing that Stevenson's
bankruptcy case amounted to a two-party dispute, TND
elaborated that she remained in violation of her lease, she
had no debts to reorganize other than student loan debt, and
her claims relating to the condition of the Property should
be litigated in the state court summary process action.
objected to the Motion to Dismiss, insisting that: (1) her
chapter 13 case was filed in good faith; (2) she proposed to
pay all rent arrearages over a 36-month period in her chapter
13 plan of reorganization; and (3) TND had committed
"acts of intentional wrong doing" by, among other
things, retaliating against her for asserting her right to
20, 2017, Stevenson filed her fifth amended chapter 13 plan
of reorganization (the "Plan"),  indicating that:
(1) she intended to "assume" the lease of the
Property; (2) she would pay lease arrears in the amount of
$6, 853.00 to TND through the Plan; (3) she owed TND an
additional $28, 391.00, which she characterized as a
nondischargeable unsecured claim for rent; (4) ECMC held a
nondischargeable unsecured claim in the amount of $70,
240.96; and (5) general unsecured creditors would receive a
dividend of "0.70%" of their claims.
Trustee filed an objection to confirmation, asserting that:
(1) the Plan was not feasible; (2) Stevenson had overstated
the amount of TND's claim and understated the amount of
her student loan debt; (3) the Plan's liquidation
analysis was incomplete; (4) Stevenson proposed to pay a
dividend of .70% to the holders of unsecured claims totaling
$105, 484.96, which Stevenson calculated as $31, 645.88,
although the Trustee's calculation was $73,
839.47; and (5) Stevenson had not filed her
pre-petition state tax returns. ECMC also filed an objection
to confirmation, arguing Stevenson had incorrectly listed her
student loan debt as approximately $70, 000.00, although it
was actually about $147, 000.00.
bankruptcy court conducted a hearing on the Motion to Dismiss
on August 3, 2017. At the outset, counsel for TND
characterized Stevenson's bankruptcy case as a
"two-party dispute" and an "effort to . . .
continue to hamstring" TND. He reiterated TND's
contention that Stevenson's claims regarding the
condition of the Property did not justify the filing of her
chapter 13 petition, and added that Stevenson had filed six
plans of reorganization, "none of which ha[d] come
within striking distance of being confirmable." He
concluded by arguing that Stevenson was merely a
"month-to-month tenant, " as her lease had
terminated pre-petition due to the recertification issue.
Stevenson, in turn, conceded that she was withholding rent
because the Property lacked heat and represented that her
goal was to "resume" her lease under § 365.
conclusion of the hearing, the bankruptcy court granted the
Motion to Dismiss, explaining to Stevenson from the bench:
[Y]our lease is [ ] terminated. There's nothing that I
could do to revive that lease.
And you've been through a chapter 7.
. . . .
You've gotten a discharge.
. . . .
[Y]our problem isn't debt. Your problem [ ] is that
you're in a continuing dispute with this landlord.
. . . .
[A]nd the right place to [complain about uninhabitable
conditions] is ...