CanI be arrested ifI owe rent?

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CanI be arrested ifI owe rent?

I was recently served papers from an apartment (that I got permission to move out of) which state they want me to pay them $1600. I tried to make arrangements to give them monthly installments of what I could afford but they didn’t want that, they want it all. I am currently unemployed and have no way of giving them much. What can I do? I’m afraid that I will have to go to jail or something. If I was working I’d pay them but I have 2 small kids at home and just can’t afford anything else on my plate right now.

Asked on August 10, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Colorado

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You won't be arrested  and you won't go to jail for owing rent.  This is a civil case and not a criminal case.  The papers with which you were served are the summons and complaint.  The complaint is the lawsuit.  You will need to file an answer to the complaint.  If you don't file an answer to the complaint, you will lose by default.  The answer denies the allegations in the complaint. 

Since the amount owed is $1600, the case was probably filed in Small Claims Court.  The Small Claims Court may have an adviser, who can help you write an answer to the complaint and file it with the court.  After filing the answer with the Small Claims Court, you will need to serve it on the opposing party by mailing that party a copy of your answer with a proof of service.  The proof of service form you can probably obtain from the court.  It just confirms the date of mailing and that it was mailed to the opposing party.  The Small Claims Court adviser will be able to help you with it  If the case was not filed in Small Claims Court, you will still need to file an answer with the appropriate court and serve it on the opposing party.

If the opposing party gets a judgment against you in the case, and if you don't have any assets the opposing party won't be able to enforce the judgment (collect the amount owed).  If you do have assets and are concerned about the opposing party enforcing a judgment against you, as a last resort you could file Chapter 7 bankruptcy to stop enforcement of the judgment.  It would be premature to file bankruptcy until there is a judgment against you.  Given the amount in question, bankruptcy should only be a last resort.


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