Filing for bankruptcy might help you stop or slow down an eviction proceeding long enough to get caught up on your rent. You will need to act quickly, though. Whether filing for bankruptcy will have the effect that you hope for will likely depend on how far along the eviction proceeding has progressed. If, however, your landlord has evidence of drug use or fears damage to the property, a bankruptcy will not provide you with much relief.
Ordinarily, when you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, a court order called the automatic stay prevents creditors from taking actions to collect debts. The stay, however, doesn’t apply in every case—including in some cases involving landlords and evictions. Whether or not the stay will give you more time in your residence will depend on three things:
In most states, before you can be evicted the landlord must file a court case (often called an unlawful detainer action) and obtain a judgment or a writ possession from the judge. If you file a bankruptcy case before the landlord can get the judgment of possession, the automatic stay will stop the eviction—but not necessarily for long. The landlord can still file a motion asking the bankruptcy court for permission to evict you. Unless you have a good reason why the eviction shouldn’t take place, the court will typically grant the landlord’s request.
If you file for bankruptcy after the eviction court issues the judgment of possession, in most states, the automatic stay will not stop the eviction. There are exceptions.
A few states allow a renter to cure a rent default even after the landlord gets a judgment of possession. Here’s what you’ll have to do.
If you can fulfill those requirements, your rent will be up to date, the automatic stay will remain in effect, and your landlord will not be able to proceed with the eviction.
If your landlord has reason to believe that you’re using illegal drugs on the premises or that the property is in danger, it’s unlikely that your bankruptcy will stop the eviction lawsuit—even if your landlord hasn’t obtained a judgment. Here are the steps the landlord can take: