Homestead protection applies to homes and land occupied by a debtor as his primary residence. Property used for commercial purposes or for the production of income generally does not qualify for Florida homestead protection. A Florida bankruptcy court recently considered married joint debtors who used part of a homestead property for his residence and part of the same property for business and income production. The issue was whether the partial business use disqualified all or part of the debtors’ homestead protection from their judgment creditors. The two debtors owned a five acre parcel of land in the county. They built their residence on a minority portion of the land. The debtors had two more buildings on the same land. One building was a warehouse used exclusively for the debtors’ business. The third building was a second residence rented to an unrelated third party. In other words, two of the three structures occupying most of the property were used commercially.
The bankruptcy court held that the entire land and all three structures were protected from the debtors’ creditors in his bankruptcy proceeding and were not subject to administration as part of the bankruptcy estate pursuant to the homestead exemption.. The court found that the Constitutional homestead clause does not disqualify a homestead because the owner uses the property commercially or for the production of rental income. The court said that, the “Debtors’ commercial use of the Building (rental) and the Warehouse does not preculde them from claiming the entirety of the real property as exempt.” The court recognized that other bankruptcy courts reached opposite conclusions in earlier cases. The case is: In re: Earnest, Case No. 08-4408-3F7.