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is a lease a debt?

Good question. My understanding is that a lease is a contractual obligation to make a payment on an asset you are using so in essence it is a debt that would be counted in your debt to income ratio calculations. However, it is not an unsecured debt because whatever you are leasing belongs to the lessor who can just take back the asset if you do not pay.

For example a car or a rental apartment are things you lease (and are obligated to pay) but they cannot be negotiated in a debt settlement process because they are not unsecured debts.