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Can Bankruptcy Stop an Eviction in New York?

Here in New York City it’s a lot more common to rent a place than it is to own a place. With soaring rental costs and landlords who will take any opportunity to raise rents, it’s little wonder that the threat of eviction is one of the major reasons why people begin exploring the remedy of bankruptcy.

As with many things pertaining to the law, timing will have a big impact on whether bankruptcy can help you meet your objectives.

The New York Eviction Process – Nonpayment or Lease Violation

The first step is the 14-Day Notice. This is a demand for payment of past due rent. The notice should state that you have 14 days to either pay the rent or move out of the unit. It should also warn you that if you don’t, you’ll have to move out and the landlord will begin eviction procedures against you. 

If the landlord is evicting you for a violated lease clause, they must give you a 10-day notice to fix the problem or face eviction. For example, if you smuggled a pet into your pet-free apartment you would be able to stop the eviction by getting rid of the pet and demonstrating your compliance to your landlord’s satisfaction, so long as you did so within the ten-day cure period.

The landlord must then file a petition with the court. You’ll be assigned a hearing date. At the hearing date, the judge will determine whether or not to issue a Judgement of Possession.

Filing bankruptcy at any point during the process prior to the issue of a Judgement of Possession will allow the automatic stay to protect you from further action, at least in the short term.

After the Judgement you may still have the ability to stay in your home if you can “cure the default.” This means you’d have to come up with the amount of rent that will be owed to your landlord within 30 days of filing. This will be held by the bankruptcy court. You’ll then have 30 more days to repay all past-due rent. 

New York Eviction Process – Illegal Drug Use or Property Endangerment

You cannot stop this kind of eviction with a bankruptcy. The way the landlord files this eviction paperwork will even be different from the way they’d file a nonpayment or lease violation paperwork.

If you know you’re being evicted under these circumstances, your first step is going to be finding a safe place to stay, and then proceeding with getting your life back together from there.

Warning: The Lifted Stay

Landlords may petition the bankruptcy court to lift the automatic stay, especially if they are being “unduly harmed” by the stay. For example, if the landlord doesn’t get paid for months and you continue to occupy the unit, then they are likely to have a winning case for being allowed to proceed with an eviction.

If you’re not going to pay the landlord anything at all then bankruptcy is only going to buy you a little bit of time.

Most people in this situation will want to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This will allow you to start paying your rent on time from the date of filing forward. The past-due rent will get wrapped up in the Chapter 13 payment like any other unsecured debt, and the remainder will be discharged. In some cases you may be able to safely file Chapter 7 without worrying about losing your apartment.

Next Steps

You will need careful legal guidance to successfully navigate the threat of eviction and the bankruptcy solutions that might help you. Contact our office for a free consultation as soon as you know you’re in trouble. Together we’ll ascertain whether bankruptcy is right for you, and determine the next, strategic steps that will help you.

See also:

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Filing for Bankruptcy

Why You Should Not File Your NYC Bankruptcy Pro Se

What You Should Know About Being Sued for Debts in New York