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Can I stop an eviction when I file bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy offers little relief to those involved in eviction issues

People who are facing an eviction and filing bankruptcy will find similar protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court as they would when trying to stop a foreclosure - Chapter 13 may halt it, but Chapter 7 will provide only limited help.

Under Chapter 13, the court-ordered creditor payment plan allows debtors to catch up on their back rent in installments if they stay current on rental fees from the time they file bankruptcy. Current and back rent are paid through the plan, and eviction is averted, according to the National Association of Chapter 13 Trustees.

For those who file a Chapter 7 case, the solution is more costly. If the bankruptcy petition is filed after the eviction notice is served, the back rent demanded in a state eviction judgment must be paid and certified with a sworn statement to the court trustee. In addition, a deposit for rent that is due 30 days from the bankruptcy filing date must be deposited with the court.

Even then, the landlord may challenge the certification and win the court's backing to proceed with the eviction.

More conditions

In situations when non-payment of rent isn't the issue, the law is generally on the side of the landlord. If eviction proceedings occur because of property endangerment or illegal activities on the premises, tenants may file an objection with the court, but they must prove that those activities have stopped.

The law is most helpful to someone who has filed bankruptcy before eviction proceedings have begun. For those in the midst of an eviction fight when they file, landlords who have a court order to evict can oust tenants in spite of the automatic stay imposed by the bankruptcy, reports FindLaw.

If the termination notice hasn't been served before the bankruptcy begins, the automatic stay will prevent a landlord from initiating an eviction. However, the landlord may ask the court to lift the stay, and in many cases, a judge will oblige because a lease agreement doesn't affect the value of a tenant's estate.

The difficulty in having financially-based evictions addressed in a bankruptcy filing stems from revisions included in the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention Consumer Protection Act, a series of bankruptcy reforms that went into effect in 2005. But the revised regulations only apply to tenants who have lost a state court eviction proceeding that allows them to stay in their residences if they pay all the back rent.

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