If your financial situation has become dire, then you may be facing eviction. This is a very stressful event, so you are understandably looking for a way to stay in your apartment. To stop eviction, you may wonder what your legal options are, if any. It is a good idea to educate yourself now about the steps you can take immediately to remain in your home. Filing for bankruptcy could help your current situation, but it depends on your timing and your goals.
We recently received a question about how filing for bankruptcy affects the eviction process. Reader question: Will chapter 7 bankruptcy stop eviction proceedings from my current landlord? And if I do file, will bankruptcy show up on my credit and stop me from getting another apartment after this one?
Answer: If the landlord began proceedings before you filed chapter 7, then they can continue with the eviction process. If your landlord attempts to evict you after you’ve filed for chapter 7, then legally, they cannot proceed. This is called a “stay.”
Yes, filing for bankruptcy will make it difficult to rent another apartment in the future.
No matter when you file for chapter 7, the law favors your landlord being paid back rent owed if you wish to stay in your apartment. To remain in your home, there are some steps you can take that we’ll outline below.
Does a “Stay” Stop the Eviction? Yes, But It Does Not Lessen the Amount You Owe
After you file for chapter 7, your landlord cannot evict you. But you still have to pay your rent. It’s just that now the court is involved. It will grant you something called an “automatic stay.” This means that your debts stay where they are. But to remain in your apartment, you’ll need to “assume the lease” and pay any back rent you owe within 30 days.
During this process, you must file a sworn statement with the court saying you understand you have the right under state law to stop eviction by paying the rent you owe. Then, you must deposit the amount of rent you owe your landlord in the next month with the court. You are responsible for providing your landlord with a copy of this statement.
IMPORTANT: This sworn statement and payment to the court for next month’s rent needs to be made at the same time you file for bankruptcy.
You will then have 30 days from the date of bankruptcy to pay the entire amount of any back rent you owe to your landlord. The only other option here is to reject your lease and then move out of your current apartment. Once you’ve paid your back rent, you’ll have to file a second statement with the court stating all back rent has been paid. This will officially stop eviction proceedings by your landlord.
However, if you default on your rent again, the landlord will file a motion with the court to lift the automatic stay. If approved, the landlord must either send you a new notice to pay rent or start the eviction process all over again.
Will I Be Able to Rent a New Apartment?
You can rent a new apartment after filing for chapter 7, but it will be more difficult. The key is not to try to hide your bankruptcy. Most landlords will look at your credit history during the application process, where it will appear. Be honest about your situation and think through how you are actively working to improve your credit so you can communicate your plans to the property owner or management company.
If you had good credit before you filed, show the new landlord proof so they can see your bankruptcy was an anomaly. If you have a personal connection to the property owner, that also may help. Generally, it’s easier to rent from an individual property owner than from a larger company with stricter policies and application procedures. You can also provide a written record of your rental history or ask previous landlords to write reference letters.
Landlords are always seeking to lower their risk when screening potential tenants. To make a new landlord more comfortable, additional information is generally better:
- Bring pay stubs, bank statements, a budget plan, and any other relevant documents that show you will be able to pay the rent.
- To help them feel good about renting to you, it might be smart to offer to do more than they expect from other applicants. For example: Have a co-signer, increase your security deposit amount, or offer to pay 3-6 months’ rent in advance.
- If you’re planning ahead, try to sign a new lease before you file for bankruptcy. A landlord cannot evict you for filing bankruptcy as long as you are current on your rent.
Find the Right Bankruptcy Attorney to Help You
Professional legal assistance is available if you wish to stop eviction proceedings and review your options. Talk to an attorney in our network today to learn about a realistic bankruptcy timeline for your unique situation.
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.