Some debtors are surprised when I tell them that the household furnishings and clothing they used on a daily basis are not exempt from their judgment creditors. Some people think that Florida law permits them to own their basic tools of living such as the clothes they wear, their children’s toys, the beds they and their family sleep in. Some assume that the Florida homestead exemption includes things inside the homestead; it does not. A judgment creditor may obtain a court order directing the sheriff to enter your homestead and take whatever they see in the house. The sheriff will then sell the property at public auction. The debtor could buy his own effects at the auction.
In the case of a married debtor, any property owned jointly with his spouse is exempt as tenants by entireties. The problem is that the creditor can order the sheriff to take all the property, and the debtor subsequently has to go to court to claim the entireties exemption. Meanwhile, all of this jointly owned, exempt property, is in the sheriff’s possession. Most judgment creditors do not take furniture and decoration they suspect will be exempt entireties property for two reasons. First, the creditor has to pay for storage and transportation of property they assume will have to be returned to the debtors’ possession, and also because the non-debtor spouse could sue the creditor.
Many debtors are also surprised to find out that the judgment creditor is not limited to one attack on home property. One of my clients had his belongings taken by the sheriff and auctioned off. During the ensuing months he replaced what was taken. Within a year the creditor and the sheriff were back and they took all his new things he had acquired. The debtor’s mistake was not replacing the furniture and clothes lost the first time with either leased furniture or furniture bought by another family member and then loaned him for personal use.
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