What To Do When a Tenant Files for Bankruptcy?

For uncontrollable conditions that might lead to bankruptcy, a tenant may seek assistance. A tenant filing for bankruptcy initiates a legal process to seek relief from their debts, often struggling to pay rent and other debts. This article will help you understand how a tenant filing for bankruptcy works and the legal process to be followed. 

Three general types of claims in bankruptcy

Secured Claims

This claim is secured by collateral. If the debtor defaults on the loan, the creditor has the right to take possession of the collateral. In bankruptcy, secured creditors have the right to be paid first from the proceeds of the sale of the collateral.

Unsecured Claims

This claim is not secured by collateral. Examples of unsecured claims include credit card debt, medical bills, and personal loans. In bankruptcy, unsecured creditors are typically paid last, after secured creditors and priority creditors.

Administrative claims

Administrative claims are crucial in the administration of a bankruptcy case, often incurred after the filing of the bankruptcy petition. They are given higher priority for payment than general unsecured claims. Examples of administrative claims include the fees and expenses of the bankruptcy trustee, professionals retained by the bankruptcy estate, and certain expenses for the preservation of the bankruptcy estate.

What is Automatic Stay?

The automatic stay is a legal provision that applies immediately upon filing a bankruptcy petition, providing tenants with immediate relief from the landlord’s collection actions. It prohibits landlords from initiating legal proceedings without bankruptcy court permission, including lawsuits and foreclosures. The automatic stay allows tenants to reorganize their finances and work out repayment plans, with exceptions for criminal proceedings, tax actions, and domestic support obligations.

Conditions for Terminating a Lease

Before bankruptcy

The conditions for terminating a lease before a tenant files for bankruptcy will depend on the terms of the lease agreement and the applicable state and local laws. Generally, a lease can be terminated before the end of the lease term if one of the following conditions is met:

Mutual Agreement

The landlord and tenant can mutually agree to terminate the lease before the end of the lease term. This agreement should be in writing and signed by both parties.

Breach of Lease

If the tenant violates a material term of the lease, such as failing to pay rent or causing damage to the property, the landlord may have the right to terminate the lease. However, the landlord must follow the proper legal procedures for eviction, which may vary depending on the state and local laws.

Expiration of Lease Term

If the lease term has expired and the tenant has not renewed the lease or entered into a new agreement with the landlord, the lease will terminate automatically.+e the key considerations for terminating a lease after a tenant files for bankruptcy:

Lease Assumption or Rejection

The bankruptcy court has a limited time frame for a tenant to decide whether to assume or reject a real property lease. If not accepted within this time, the lease is deemed rejected and the tenant must vacate the premises. If accepted, the tenant must cure defaults, provide assurance of future performance, and pay delinquent rent. The decision is subject to court approval.

Automatic Stay

The automatic stay under Section 362 of the Bankruptcy Code is crucial in the termination of a lease in bankruptcy. A tenant has 120 days to decide whether to assume or reject a lease, with a 90-day extension at the bankruptcy court’s discretion.

Relief from Stay

In bankruptcy cases, relief from the automatic stay is a process that allows creditors to request permission from the bankruptcy court to take action against the debtor or their property.


Communication plays a crucial role in the lead-up to bankruptcy and during the bankruptcy process. It is essential to develop a strategic communications program that addresses the needs of these stakeholders and provides clear, transparent information about the bankruptcy process.

How to work with tenants to minimize the losses?

Understand the bankruptcy process

Familiarize yourself with the basics of bankruptcy law, including the automatic stay, which halts most collection actions, including eviction proceedings.

Communicate with the tenant

Open a line of communication with the tenant who has filed for bankruptcy. Discuss their intentions regarding the lease and the property. Understanding their situation can help you make informed decisions.

Consult with a bankruptcy attorney

Seek legal advice from a bankruptcy attorney to understand your rights and obligations as a landlord when a tenant files for bankruptcy. An attorney can guide you through the process and help you navigate the complexities of bankruptcy law.

Consider negotiating with the tenant

It may be possible to negotiate a repayment plan or other arrangements that can help minimize losses for both parties.

Stay informed about the bankruptcy proceedings

Keep track of the tenant’s bankruptcy case and stay informed about any relevant court orders or actions that may impact the landlord-tenant relationship.

Explore your options

Depending on the circumstances, you may have options such as seeking relief from the automatic stay to proceed with eviction, filing a claim in the bankruptcy case for unpaid rent, or negotiating a lease assumption or rejection.

Mitigate losses

If the tenant is unable to fulfill their lease obligations, consider re-renting the property as soon as legally permissible to mitigate financial losses.

Understanding your rights and obligations as a landlord

When a tenant files for bankruptcy, an automatic stay is in effect, prohibiting landlords from taking any action to collect debts or evict the tenant. This includes stopping any attempts to collect unpaid rent or halting ongoing eviction proceedings. Landlords have the right to file a proof of claim with the bankruptcy court to seek payment for any unpaid rent or damages to the property.

The tenant in bankruptcy has the option to assume or reject the lease. The former requires the tenant to cure any defaults and continue fulfilling the terms of the lease, and the latter allows the landlord to claim damages resulting from the rejection.

Landlords can seek relief from the automatic stay to proceed with eviction proceedings if the tenant has not paid rent or violated other lease terms. This typically requires filing a motion with the bankruptcy court and obtaining permission to continue with eviction.


To sum it all up, in cases where a tenant files for bankruptcy, there are legal processes to be followed. As a landlord, it is essential to be well aware of your rights and obligations. To navigate the losses, a landlord should be informed of how to minimize the effect of this. Staying connected with your tenant and seeking legal advice from a professional is also advisable. Strictly follows the lease agreement to avoid disputes that might lead to court appeals.

For more information on how we can keep your Sacramento rental occupied, contact us at Eagle Property Management.

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