Bankruptcy expert Leon Bayer answers real-life questions.
I filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and listed the debt I owed to my restaurant’s landlord. I voluntarily returned the premises to the landlord and got a discharge in Chapter 7 shortly thereafter. The landlord took possession of the premises and posted a notice on the window of the restaurant that says, “John L. filed bankruptcy and is no longer here.” He also taped a copy of my bankruptcy petition and schedules to the restaurant’s window. Can I do anything to make him take the notice down? It’s humiliating to have my former customers see this. I have tried to be reasonable, but he is a jerk.
Oh, I so agree with you. The guy sounds like a real jerk. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything legally to make him take the notice down, but his actions may make it harder for him to rent the place in the future.
Your Landlord Did Not Violate the Bankruptcy Discharge
A creditor violates the bankruptcy discharge when it tries to collect a debt that was discharged in bankruptcy. Although your bankruptcy discharged the debt you owed to the landlord, the landlord hasn’t done anything to try to get you to pay the debt.
If the landlord sent you a letter offering to take down the bankruptcy notice in exchange for you paying what you previously owed, then you’d have a “smoking gun” that you could use to prove that the landlord was trying to collect on the discharged debt. But without any collection attempts, the landlord hasn’t violated the discharge order and you can’t take any legal action to make him remove the notice.
Your Landlord Might Have Trouble Renting the Building
If it’s any consolation, though, your landlord’s actions may make it difficult for him to rent the space. When they see the posted notice, prospective tenants will see what a jerk the guy is. As you know, running a restaurant is hard enough without constant warfare with the landlord. A prospective tenant is likely to ask, “Do I really want to rent from a hothead like this?”
I think the place will probably stay empty until the landlord takes down the bankruptcy papers, which means he loses a month’s rent for every month he keeps the notice up.
Leon Bayer is a Los Angeles bankruptcy attorney. He is a partner at Bayer, Wishman & Leotta, a California law firm specializing in bankruptcy. The opinions and advice in this blog post are from Mr. Bayer alone, and should not be attributed to Nolo. By answering a question on this blog, Mr. Bayer does not become your lawyer.