Will The Florida Homestead Exemption Protect My Home If I File For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
One of the biggest concerns that people have when thinking about filing for bankruptcy is what will happen to their house. Many people assume that bankruptcy automatically means losing their home to their creditors. But it is actually not that simple.
Federal law permits each state to define certain property as “exempt” from being taken from a debtor in bankruptcy. Most states have some form of “homestead” exemption that specifically applies to a debtor’s equity interest in their primary residence. Florida has one of the most generous homestead exemptions in the country. Indeed, Florida’s homestead exemption is so strong it is actually written into the state constitution.
What the Florida Homestead Exemption Protects
The constitutional homestead exemption protects a primary residence of up to one-half acre in a municipality (i.e., a city) or 160 contiguous acres located outside of a municipality. There is no dollar limit on the exemption. So a person could technically own a $1 million home outside a city and fully exempt it in bankruptcy.
Now there are a few caveats. First, the homestead exemption only protects Florida residents who use the exempt property as their actual home. You cannot exempt a winter home or rental property. Second, you must own the home yourself (or with your spouse), and not through a corporation, LLC, or an irrevocable trust.
Third, federal bankruptcy law requires that you live in Florida for at least 1,215 days–about 40 months or just under three-and-a-half years–before claiming the state’s homestead exemption in bankruptcy. If you have lived in Florida for less than 1,215 days, you can still claim a homestead exemption, but it is capped by federal law at $189,050 for Chapter 7 cases filed between January 2022 and March 2025 (the cap is reviewed every three years).
The other critical thing to note is that the homestead exemption only protects your equity in the property–that is, the value of your interest in your home. The homestead exemption does not protect you from your mortgage debt. You still need to remain current on your mortgage payments if you file for Chapter 7, otherwise the lender can still foreclose. And if you do not qualify for the unlimited Florida homestead exemption–i.e., you have to use the federal exemption–the bankruptcy trustee can still sell your home if there is any non-exempt equity in the property. However, in that scenario you will be reimbursed for the amount of your homestead exemption.
Contact Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney Carol M. Galloway Today
So as you can see, it is quite possible to keep your home even after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. But there are still a number of legal hurdles you will need to work through. An experienced Jacksonville Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney can help guide you through this process. Contact the Law Offices of Carol M. Galloway, P.A., today to schedule a free initial consultation.