I'm behind on my rent and about to be evicted. Can chapter 13 stop the eviction?

In most cases, yes. But don't rely on chapter 13 from keeping you from having to pay rent going forward, and also you must catch up delinquent rent "promptly."

If you are facing an eviction from a house or apartment, filing chapter 13 can help you to catch up delinquent rent payments and stay in the property, at least for the term of your lease. We cannot force a landlord to give you a lease, or renew a lease that has expired before the filing of the bankruptcy.

And you must pay all rent payments that come due after the filing of the bankruptcy case on time, and you must provide in the chapter 13 plan that you will cure or "provide adequate assurance" that you will promptly cure any default under the lease. See Title 11, U.S.C. Sec. 365.

If your lease has already expired, or if there was a final order of eviction already entered by the Justice Court and it is no longer appealable by the time that you file bankruptcy, your options are much more limited. It's probably time to call a friend or relative to move in with, until you can get back on your feet.

In a recent case from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, Judge Letitia Paul gave the debtor a chance by imposing the automatic stay when none existed, because it was the debtor's third bankruptcy filing within one year (the first two were dismissed).

But when the landlord filed a Motion for Relief from Stay for cause, the court held that since the debtor had made no offer of "adequate protection" (presumably rent payments), and had signed a pauper's affidavit in state court that he only made $700 per month total when the rent was $750 per month, the stay should be lifted to allow the eviction to go forward. In re Norris, Bankr. Court, SD Texas 2014.

So if you are a couple months behind on rent, have a lease and want to keep it, chapter 13 can probably help you stay in the property, assuming that you qualify for chapter 13 and can afford the rent.

But if you just don't have the money to pay the rent, filing chapter 13 won't magically permit you to stay in the property for free. Best to look for another place. Besides, you don't want to be in a place where you are not wanted, anyway.

J Thomas Black
Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization