Can Declaring Bankruptcy Stop an Eviction?

On most commonly asked questions within the domain of bankruptcy is whether it can stop an eviction. The answer is not a simple yes or no. Your circumstances ultimately determine whether something called “automatic stay” can be used to stop an eviction.

When Will Automatic Stay Stop an Eviction?

As its name implies, an automatic stay goes into place without any necessary action on the part of the evictee. However, tenants must inform their landlord if they choose to file for bankruptcy. Automatic stay provides a buffer by prohibiting creditors from continuing their collection efforts. They do not prevent eviction, but they give you extra time to get your finances in order.

There are some exceptions to the automatic stay, however, that allow landlords to continue with eviction even after bankruptcy. If your landlord has already attained a judgement for possession of your property, for instance, then he would be able to go through with the eviction process.

If you’ve already filed for bankruptcy before your landlord obtained a judgement, then the automatic stay prevents the eviction. It is still possible, though, for your landlord to request relief from the bankruptcy court, allowing him to proceed with the eviction. Courts will generally grant this motion, as the landlord is the owner of the property.

There are other instances where a landlord can begin the eviction process regardless of whether you have filed for bankruptcy. Two examples of such are if you have used drugs on the premises or in some way endangered the property. To proceed with the eviction, the landlord need only provide the bankruptcy court with certification that one of these two instances occurred, after which he must provide a copy of the certification to the tenant.

When a tenant receives an eviction notice, filing for bankruptcy can buy him some time to get his finances together. If you’re being threatened with eviction because you’re unable to pay rent, you should get in touch with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer to better understand your financial options.

Washington D.C. bankruptcy attorney Kevin D. Judd represents clients in bankruptcy court throughout the District and Maryland.

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