If you are behind on your monthly rent payments, the bankruptcy process can provide different ways to help get you back on the right financial path. This article will discuss how to stay in an apartment after bankruptcy whether you are up to date or behind on your monthly rent payments.
Written by Attorney Karra Kingston.
Updated August 10, 2020
If you’re considering filing a consumer bankruptcy to get out of debt, you may be worried about your residential lease. If you are current on your residential lease, you shouldn’t worry. Generally, residential leases are not hard to handle in bankruptcy as long as you continue making your monthly rent payments. If you are behind on your monthly rent payments, the bankruptcy process can provide different ways to help get you back on the right financial path. This article will discuss how to stay in an apartment after bankruptcy whether you are up to date or behind on your monthly rent payments.
What is a Residential Lease?
A residential lease agreement is a contract between you and your landlord. The residential lease agreement is a document that contains all of the terms for renting an apartment or a house. Generally, this is a binding contract that is signed at the start of the rental term and remains valid until the expiration of the agreement.
Residential leases set forth the most important terms of a lease between you and your landlord. It protects both you and your landlord to ensure both of you are doing what you need to do to be a good tenant and landlord. The agreements set forth basic terms such as the description of the property that you are leasing, names of the tenants living in the property, the duration of the lease, when payments will be made, and how the security deposit will be handled.
If you are thinking about or have already entered into a residential lease agreement you likely had to pass a credit check, provide a security deposit, provide information about your employment history and rental history, and provide pay stubs. These types of background checks allow the landlord to get some insight into your financial situation to ensure you are a good tenant and will make timely payments.
A residential lease or a rental agreement in its simplest form is an agreement where you promise to make monthly rent payments on time and keep the real estate clean, so the landlord doesn’t bother you.
What Happens If I am Behind on My Rent?
Being behind on your rent payments can be stressful especially if you are facing eviction. Fortunately, many individuals who fail to make monthly rent payments on time don’t face eviction. If, however, you are facing eviction, know that you are not alone. Many individuals who fall behind on their rent payments end up in this unfortunate situation because they are facing some kind of financial hardship. Generally, individuals fall behind on their rent due to loss of employment. If you have fallen behind on your rent due to an unforeseeable circumstance, it’s important to notify your landlord as soon as possible. Some landlords may allow you to enter into a monthly repayment plan with them instead of immediately commencing an eviction action.
If, however, a landlord is not willing to work with you, then they may start an eviction proceeding against you. An eviction proceeding is where the landlord commences a lawsuit against you to try to collect the past due rent and get you out of the rental property. Generally, the landlord will also ask the court to allow them to use your initial security deposit to put towards your missed rent payments.
You should note, eviction proceedings can negatively impact your credit report. So, it is important to try to avoid the eviction process, if possible.
Bankruptcy and A Debtor Facing Eviction
When individuals file bankruptcy, an automatic stay is initiated which stops all collection proceedings, including eviction proceedings. Bankruptcy will temporarily stop an eviction from moving forward but it does not solve the problem of late payments. You will still need to bring your rent up to date otherwise, your landlord can evict you from your rental property.
Individuals who file bankruptcy have two options to repay their landlord. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, they can simply make an agreement with the landlord to repay the past due rent in a monthly payment plan. Individuals who file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case can repay their past due rent to the landlord through their 3-5 year Chapter 13 repayment plan.
If Your Landlord Has a Judgment For Eviction?
An eviction judgment is an order granted by the Court that requires you to move from the property. Once a court enters a judgment of eviction, it can be very difficult to overcome. If, however, you want to try to overcome the judgment and stay in the apartment, you must docket a certification with the Bankruptcy Court that explains a defense you have to the eviction under your state’s law. You must also show that you have all the money to pay the rent due within thirty days of filing your bankruptcy case. For individuals who are already struggling with their finances, it can be very difficult, if not impossible to come up with the funds.
Do You Even Want to Keep the Apartment?
Sometimes it may be best to let bygones be bygones. It is important to ask yourself if you want to stay in this apartment. Late payments and eviction create a contentious relationship with a landlord who in turn may deliberately make living there unenjoyable. Due to your financial mishaps, the lease terms may not be favorable, and leaving may be a better decision for you. Filing a bankruptcy case is a great way to be able to leave your rental property without having to worry about being held liable for the past due rent payments. If you want to leave your rental property even before an eviction has occurred you can reject the lease in your bankruptcy case and walk away from the rental property without owing money to the landlord.
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Bankruptcy Where the Debtor is Current on Rent
Many individuals file bankruptcy who are current on their rent. Generally, debtors who file bankruptcy cases that are current on their monthly rent do so because they are behind on other bills. Typically, credit card bills and medical debt are the most predominant reasons debtors file bankruptcy.
If you are current with your rent payments, the bankruptcy process is much easier. You will list your landlord’s contact information in your bankruptcy papers. The Statement of Intention is where you will list your landlord’s information and let the Bankruptcy Court know that you intend to stay in the rental property and will continue making your monthly rent payments. As long as you continue to make timely rent payments your bankruptcy will not impact your lease agreement with your landlord.
If your landlord does annual credit checks it may be a good idea to disclose your bankruptcy to them. Most landlords won’t care that you filed bankruptcy as long as you are paying them on time. In some cases, you may be able to ask your landlord to report your timely payments to the credit bureaus to help rebuild your credit score on your credit report.
If you are thinking about filing bankruptcy, but you're hesitant because your lease is holding you back, don’t worry. Bankruptcy provides different ways to help people with their lease agreements. If you are current on your rent, a bankruptcy case will likely have no impact on your bankruptcy filing. Instead, it can help you eliminate some of your other debt that is causing your financial struggles. If, however, you are not current on your monthly rent payments the bankruptcy process can offer a way to stop an eviction proceeding temporarily so you can cure your late rent payments. Lastly, while having to move may seem terrible, if you are behind on your rent it may be best to use the bankruptcy process to get out of a bad lease and start over debt-free.
If you are unsure what to do perhaps, speaking with a bankruptcy attorney can help you decide the best route to take. Bankruptcy lawyers can give you legal advice on your current financial situation and help you decide if staying in your rental property is a good idea depending on your finances. Many law firms provide free consultations that you should take advantage of.