Can Bankruptcy Stop A Rental Eviction?

June 25, 2010

A person’s financial situation is often desperate by the time a bankruptcy is filed.  In some circumstances the rent is past due and the debtor is facing eviction.  Fortunately, the bankruptcy laws can help many debtors stay in their homes, at least temporarily. 

Generally, when you file a bankruptcy petition all collection actions are automatically stayed.  The purpose of this stay is to give you some breathing room and time to sort out your financial difficulties.  If you are behind on rent payments, the bankruptcy automatic stays the commencement or continuation of an eviction action.  The automatic stay prohibits your landlord from any attempt to collect rents that accrued prior to the bankruptcy filing date.  Your landlord may not write or call you in an effort to collect these rents, and may not start or continue a lawsuit to evict you.

 

The bankruptcy automatic stay will not relieve you from your obligation to pay rent after the bankruptcy filing date.  If you fall behind on your rent payments after the bankruptcy is filed, your landlord may evict you regardless of the bankruptcy, but cannot seek payment of past rents.  If you are not behind on rents at the time the bankruptcy case is filed, your landlord is not a creditor and will not receive notice of your bankruptcy filing.  However, you must account for any rent deposit on your bankruptcy schedules. 

In some circumstances a landlord may complain to the bankruptcy court that the tenant is endangering the property or using controlled substances illegally on the property.  The landlord must file a certification to the bankruptcy court and the tenant has 15 days to respond.  The court must hold a hearing within 10 days.  If the landlord is successful in this complaint, the court will lift the automatic stay and allow the eviction process to continue. 

If your landlord has obtained a judgment for possession and order of eviction before you file bankruptcy, the legal process is more complex.  You must deposit one month of rent to the bankruptcy court immediately upon filing the bankruptcy petition along with a certification stating that your landlord’s judgment permits you to stay in the premises upon satisfaction of the entire judgment amount.  This filing stays the eviction process for thirty days.  If you wish to remain longer, the amount stated in the judgment for possession must be paid within the thirty day period. 

Bankruptcy can stop an eviction and give you time to move or make arrangements to stay.  If you are facing eviction from your rental home and contemplating bankruptcy, discuss your situation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.

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