If you’re current with your rental payments and plan to keep living in the rental, everything will stay essentially the same. This article will provide an overview of the type of information you’ll need to provide on your bankruptcy forms and what typically happens with a residential lease after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is filed with the court. For more detailed information about leases and bankruptcy, check out our Guide to Leases in Bankruptcy.
Listing the Lease
You’ll have to list your lease on Schedule G. Schedule G specifically only lists “unexpired leases and executory contracts.” If you’re current with your rent payments, this is the only place your lease appears on your forms. All you’ll need your landlord’s name and mailing address.
If you’re behind on rent, make sure to also list this as a debt on your Schedule E/F. You’ll again need the landlord’s name and mailing address along with the approximate amount you owe as of the filing date.
Notifying the Landlord
You don’t have to let your landlord know ahead of time that you’re filing bankruptcy. However, the court will send a copy of Official Form 309A to your landlord after your case is filed. So, especially if your landlord is an individual (rather than a business or property management company), it may not be a bad idea to give them a heads up, so they’re not confused about what the notice is all about.
Paying Rent After Filing Bankruptcy
You have to pay rent after filing bankruptcy. If you’re keeping (“assuming”) the lease, you have to keep paying your full rent and any other obligations under your lease agreement until the lease term is over.
If you’re using bankruptcy as an opportunity to get out of the lease early and you move out before filing bankruptcy, you don’t have to keep paying rent. But, if you’re still living in the property, make sure to pay rent for the time that you lived there after your case is filed. This is a post-petition obligation and the bankruptcy discharge won’t apply to it.
Can I be evicted after filing bankruptcy?
No. As long as you’re current with your rent payments and haven’t violated any other terms of the lease agreement, the landlord can’t evict you just because you filed bankruptcy.
If you’re behind on rent payments when your case is filed, the automatic stay prevents the landlord from evicting you - at least temporarily. But, if you want to stay in the home (keep the lease), you’ll need to make arrangements to catch up on past-due rent.
If you’re behind on rent and don’t want to bring the lease current, the landlord has to ask the court to “lift” the automatic stay for them so they can move forward with an eviction proceeding.
The bankruptcy protects you from any collection actions for past-due rent as of your bankruptcy filing date. So, while the landlord can evict you, they can’t make you pay for this pre-petition debt. But, as mentioned above, be prepared to pay rent for the time that you remain in the property after your case is filed.
The Automatic Stay and Eviction Judgments
It’s a little different if your landlord got an eviction judgment against you before your bankruptcy case was filed. In that case, the automatic stay will protect you from eviction only if certain requirements are met. If you can’t meet these requirements, the landlord can evict you without first getting permission from the bankruptcy court.
What are the requirements to get automatic stay protections after an eviction judgment?
At the time your bankruptcy petition is filed, you have to certify to the court - under penalty of perjury - that state law allows you to cure the default that led to the eviction judgment in the first place. Additionally, you have to deposit all money that comes due within 30 days from your filing date with the clerk of the court. If you can’t do both, your landlord can move forward with an eviction.
What should I expect when it comes to renewing my lease?
A bankruptcy filing should not impact your ability to renew your lease. That being said, many landlords use credit checks when deciding whether to offer or renew a lease agreement. It’s entirely up to the landlord whether to renew your lease when the term is up. This is true whether someone files bankruptcy or not.
If your landlord is an individual (i.e. not a business or property management company) it may be helpful to explain to them that your bankruptcy actually makes you a more reliable tenant, as you no longer have to deal with debt payments.