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Are you considering bankruptcy because you’re behind on your rent?
Few things are more stressful than knowing your financial problems could deprive you of a place to live. It’s important to understand the interaction between bankruptcy law and Missouri landlord-tenant law if you’re going to launch a strategy capable of helping you.
Why are you being evicted?
If the eviction is for non-payment of rent then bankruptcy may protect you. It may even protect you if you’re being evicted for breaking the lease contract…if, for example, you smuggled a pet into a pet-free unit, but much will depend on how the landlord proceeds.
If you’re being evicted for property endangerment or for using illegal drugs, bankruptcy court won’t help you at all. The landlord can simply file a certification with the bankruptcy court explaining the basis of the eviction. While you can stall matters by filing an objection, the court will side with the landlord if the allegations are true.
In addition, any willful or malicious damage will become a new debt you’ll have to pay…one you won’t be able to discharge in bankruptcy.
Is there already a judgement in place?
If you didn’t file bankruptcy prior to the judgement of eviction you’re out of luck. Bankruptcy won’t turn over an existing Judgement for Possession.
The bad news is you’ll need to vacate the premises and find somewhere else to stay. The good news is the past due rent will be discharged in bankruptcy, and at this point you’re probably a shoo-in for a Chapter 7 case.
In addition, this eviction will stay on your credit report, even after you file for bankruptcy. If you think eviction is a possibility, it’s important to move fast.
Without a judgement, the automatic stay protects you…to a point.
The automatic stay will keep the landlord from evicting you in the short-term. They won’t be able to send you a notice of eviction and they won’t be able to pursue a Judgement of Possession.
What they can do is ask the court to “lift” the automatic stay. They can simply state that letting you stay in the apartment long-term without paying them causes them undue harm. Once released from the stay, they may proceed with the bankruptcy as normal.
There is good news though: they can’t do it on the basis of past due rent from before the period during which you filed bankruptcy. They can do it on past-due rent from after, which means the moment you file bankruptcy you’re going to want to stay current on your rent.
If you’re facing eviction, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is often your best bet.
Filing Chapter 13 will roll your past-due rent into your monthly debt payment. As long as you pay the landlord your monthly rent on time from then on out, then you can’t be evicted.
In some cases you may even be able to proceed with a Chapter 7, depending on your circumstances. You’ll want to work closely with a Missouri bankruptcy attorney to determine the right course of action.