Back in April of this year Attorney Christopher Knoth posted a blog reporting on a Bankruptcy court decision where the Homestead protections pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 188 were found to be available to a mixed-use property. Last week the Bankruptcy Appeals Court confirmed that decision making several noteworthy points.
The Court specifically noted that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had admonished (in a topic related decision) that the intended public policy and the purpose of the Homestead Act should cause courts to construe the homestead exemptions liberally in favor of debtors. Consequently the Court held that the mere use of a residence for non-residential purposes, at least when the predominant purpose is residential, does not, by itself, preclude an exemption for the Property.
Although counsel for the appellant argued that any non-residential use of a structure would exempt it from the protections of the Homestead statute (citing that the statute itself specifically defined the properties which could enjoy the protection) the Court firmly rejected that argument (invoking our presently undefeated local professional football franchise to illustrate): “If a homeowner in Foxborough were to rent out her driveway to Patriots fans on Gillette Stadium game-days . . . it defies intuition to think she no longer lives in a single-family dwelling.”
It is still important to note that the Court did not mandate a hard and fast rule but rather indicated that evaluations (to determine a property’s “primary” use) would ultimately be made on a “case by case” basis.
This case provides another clear demonstration that a Declaration of Homestead can be an invaluable protection for Massachusetts homeowners. The current Homestead statute even allows its filing for a property held in Trust. Additionally, the Massachusetts Homestead Law increases (doubles) protection amounts for the disabled as well as for homeowners 62 years of age or older.
Contact our office to make sure you have recorded a Declaration of Homestead for your principal residence in Massachusetts!
Attorney Harold F. Moody, Jr.