This is one of the top five questions that any bankruptcy attorney is asked. The answer is “Sometimes.”
A lot of unscrupulous lawyers will sell bankruptcy services as a way to get out of an eviction proceeding that is already underway. It really depends on the circumstances under which the eviction was initiated. In general, if you received a judgment of eviction before filing for bankruptcy, your landlord would still be able to go ahead with the eviction. Once that judgment is in place, there is nothing that can stop an eviction.
In other circumstances, tenants have fallen behind on their rent and while proceedings have been initiated, the landlord has not obtained a judgment. This is a temporary fix only. The landlord can go to the bankruptcy court and ask for relief from the automatic stay and then proceed with the eviction. If you have not fallen behind on your rent, but are still proceeding with a bankruptcy filing you should speak first to your landlord so that they understand your financial circumstances, and that you will stay current on your rent. In all cases, the trustee has final say on whether or not to assume or reject the lease.
There is also a “fast lane” for eviction cases in which the property was endangered by the tenant, or illegal drugs were used on the property. The landlord must provide the bankruptcy court with certification that these conditions existed within the past 30 days, and serve a copy of the certification to the tenant then proceed with the eviction after 15 days. If the tenant contests, the court will have a hearing where the tenant must establish that the situation no longer exists or that the landlord lied in a sworn statement. Unless these conditions exist landlord will be allowed to proceed with the eviction.
Understand, if you file for bankruptcy your landlord may become nervous about having a bankrupt tenant and decide to evict you anyway, even if you are current on rent, have agreed to remain current, and the trustee accepts your lease. There are no guarantees that your landlord will allow you to stay once you have filed, and there are no guarantees that they will move to evict you. Each case is different and each landlord is different.
Bankruptcy is a complex legal procedure, governed by both federal and local rules. If you are thinking of bankruptcy as a ruse to delay eviction, it will work for a short time. If you are thinking of bankruptcy as a way to stop the clock on your debts and restart your life, then come and talk to us in our Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach offices, we have experience and insight that will help you get your life back on track, and show you that bankruptcy is not the end of the world. The first consultation is free, and we are open seven days a week – don’t wait until you have a notice on the door, give us a call!