Bankruptcy offers residential tenants a number of financial and legal protections including, in many cases, against evictions. However, bankruptcy will only temporarily shield you from eviction, and it has to be done correctly. Moreover, your landlord may be able to resume the eviction in certain circumstances. Knowing your legal rights is key to exercising them, but who can you turn to?
Count on Toronjo & Prosser Law. We understand the financial struggles that many Americans are facing. We help individual debtors who are dealing with bankruptcy take advantage of critical legal protections against evictions.
Bankruptcy And Evictions
Renters who lose their jobs or have unexpected financial problems can easily fall behind on their bills, including their rent. When these difficulties become overwhelming, renters may turn to bankruptcy for relief. Filing for bankruptcy to temporarily stop evictions could be one form of relief.
As long as the landlord has not yet obtained a court order permitting eviction, a renter who is behind on rent can delay it by filing for bankruptcy. When someone files for bankruptcy, an automatic stay is put in place which prevents, among other things, court actions to evict delinquent renters. However, if the landlord obtains an eviction judgment prior to the bankruptcy filing, then the eviction can generally proceed.
If you are successful in filing for bankruptcy prior to a Texas court order permitting eviction, then you will have also bought yourself some extra time. While your eviction is stayed, you can use the time to move or make plans to repay the back rent you owe. Moving, of course, won’t erase the debt that you owe the landlord, but it can prevent a surprise eviction and having no place to go.
Bankruptcy and Evictions: What to Do If You Filed for Bankruptcy Before the Eviction
The bankruptcy will stop the eviction as long as it was filed before the landlord gets its order. The automatic stay essentially treats the landlord like any other creditor. Therefore, in the eyes of the bankruptcy court, the landlord’s eviction action is seen as an attempt by a creditor to reclaim property. As with any other creditor, the landlord is stopped from doing anything else because of the stay.
However, this reprieve does not give the renter a free pass to do nothing. The renter will still have to pay rent that becomes due after the bankruptcy filing. If the renter does not pay, the landlord has the right to lift the automatic stay to proceed with the eviction. The landlord can also ask that the stay be lifted for other reasons, and in fact, there’s a good chance this will happen.
What reasons can a landlord ask the stay to be lifted?
If and when the landlord retains an attorney, it’s likely that he or she will file a motion to ask the judge to lift the bankruptcy stay so the eviction can go forward. There are several reasons a landlord might ask for this, including:
- Illegal activity on the property. If illegal activity, such as drug use, is occurring or has occurred on the property, then this will almost certainly be in direct violation of your lease agreement. In other words, it’s no longer a question of you being in debt; a violation of the lease agreement could allow the landlord to have the stay lifted and have you evicted.
- Another violation of the lease. Remember, bankruptcy is concerned with creditors and debtors. As mentioned above, the landlord is viewed as a creditor with respect to back rent. In order to lift the stay, the landlord would need to assert some other violation of the lease besides delinquent payments. For example, if you damage or destroy the property the stay will probably be lifted.
- The tenant cannot pay or has no intention of paying the back rent. The automatic stay given to each debtor that files for bankruptcy might only be temporary in an eviction case. If the debtor fail to make the normal monthly rent payments after the case is filed AND fail to work out an agreement with the landlord to catch up the back rent due, the Court will lift the stay to allow the eviction to proceed.
Naturally, there’s a risk that the landlord will find or even fabricate a reason other than back rent to say you broke the lease. The landlord has to be able to show to the court that a genuine non-rent violation has occurred as a basis to lift the bankruptcy protection. If you’re facing a landlord request to lift an automatic stay for what you believe is an invalid reason, talk to a Texas bankruptcy lawyer.
What if the eviction was ordered before I filed for bankruptcy?
In cases where the landlord obtained a court order allowing eviction prior to the bankruptcy filing, there’s little you can do to prevent it. At this point, you will need to focus on discharging your past due rent in bankruptcy. Talk to a skilled Texas bankruptcy attorney to learn how best to do this.
Contact Our Bankruptcy and Evictions Attorney Today
If you find yourself behind on bills, especially rent, the time to act is now. The landlord may be busy obtaining a court order to evict you, which the bankruptcy cannot stop if it’s filed after that order. But if you file first, you may be able to negotiate a settlement with the landlord to prevent you from being evicted. Ultimately, we can help use the bankruptcy process to your advantage and possibly discharge back rent if you cannot pay it.
It starts with contacting the knowledgeable bankruptcy attorneys of Toronjo & Prosser Law. Give us a call today to schedule your confidential consultation.