Can I pay rent to my parents, or will the trustee go after those payments in bankruptcy?

Yes, if you are living with your parents, you can pay them rent.  The trustee will not demand turnover of normal rental payments to your landlord.

The big fear here is that a trustee may think that you are attempting to pay your parents back for a previous loan they made to you.  In bankruptcy, you are not allowed to make preferential transfers to creditors before you go bankrupt (you can’t pay one unsecured creditor back and ignore all of the others).  So, if you pay Mom and Dad back $1,000 right before you go bankrupt, the trustee can sue Mom and Dad to get that $1,000 back and then distribute it between all of your creditors.

But if you are honestly paying rent, then this is not a preferential transfer.  This is a contemporaneous exchange for value (your rental payment = license to use property).

However, you cannot pre-pay rent.  The trustee may go after this money, especially since it’s a transfer to an insider (your parents).  You cannot catch up on rent.  This is a preferential transfer to an unsecured creditor.

This also raises another issue as to whether or not your parents are part of your income or household expenses, and this is something to discuss with your attorney on a case by case basis.

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