Can Bankruptcy Stop An Eviction?
Like everything else, it depends. An eviction is a process by which a landlord can regain possession of a rental property from a tenant relatively quickly. If a tenant has failed to pay the rent or is otherwise in violation of the rental agreement at the process can take three or four weeks from the first “Notice to Pay Rent or Vacate” until the Sheriff arrives at the door to remove the tenant.
In Washington, if rent is not paid according to the 3 day notice, an eviction lawsuit is filed and a hearing is set about 10 days from the filing. The tenant must appear and “show cause” why they should not be evicted. Normally this is limited to stating that the rent has been paid or that there is some reason why the rent is not due.
Write of Restitution
If the tenant cannot make this showing, then the court issues an order giving the landlord the right to possession of the property and issuing Writ of Restitution which tells the Sheriff to remove the tenants. The Sheriff serves the Writ by posting it on the door. In about three days the Sheriff will return and make sure that all occupants are out of the property.
A bankruptcy filing puts a stop to all attempts to collect debts or take property of the debtor, at least until there has been a meeting with the bankruptcy trustee, a motion to lift the automatic stay or the case is closed. If a Writ of Restitution has already been issued however, the eviction may proceed.
Eviction Under A Lease
It does make a difference whether the tenant has a lease for a term of months or years or is renting under a month to month rental arrangement. If there is a lease, then the tenant has a property interest in the remaining months of the lease. If the tenant files a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which involves a payment plan, the past due rent can be paid over the 36 to 60 months of the Chapter 13 Plan. The rent due for months after the filing is also paid through the Chapter 13 Trustee. Although bankruptcy does not give the tenant any additional right to renew or extend such a lease it can provide a way to keep current while finding a new place to rent in an orderly fashion.
Even in a month to month rental situation, state law requires a 20 day notice to terminate the tenancy. Only then can an eviction proceeding be started. If a bankruptcy is filed before the Order for Possession has been granted, the tenant will still have some extra time, a month or six weeks perhaps, within which to find a new place.
The facts of each case will determine the legal effect of a bankruptcy on an eviction. Be sure to contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney to fully understand your rights under the bankruptcy law.