In New York, the debtors can protect the equity in their residences by utilizing their homestead exemption. Equity is typically defined as the difference between the market value of the property and the debt owed on it. The homestead exemption is one of the most ways to protect your biggest asset, your home, from the claims of your creditors. In New York, an individual debtor can protect up to $50,000 of equity in home by filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, $100,000 if the debtor spouses are filing jointly. In order to take the benefit of the homestead exemption, the property has to be your residence when you file the bankruptcy.
I am often asked if the debtor can lose the benefit of the homestead exemption. My usual response is that the debtor could lose the benefit of the homestead exemption only in extreme circumstances. Typically, in order to lose the benefit of the exemption, the debtors must engage in fraudulent conduct or a clear showing of bad faith. Further, the wrongful conduct must be related to the homestead exemption.
If, for example, you own a $300,000 investment property in addition to your $100,000 residence, but you wrongfully claim in your bankruptcy petition that you live in the $300,000 property, you may lose the right to claim the exemption. As long as the debtor does not lie or attempt to hide the property from the bankruptcy court, the debtor will not lose the homestead exemption.
If you are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a bankruptcy attorney.