People facing a civil judgment often try to protect non-exempt cash by investing it in a Florida homestead. Some debtors seek advantage of the unlimited value of Florida’s Constitutional homestead exemption by buying a new, expensive parcel of raw land and immediately converting the new property to a protected homestead. Often, there is not enough time to construct a livable house on the land. Debtors wonder whether they can erect a small temporary structure, such as a mobile home or construction trailer, and claim homestead protection over the temporary structure plus the land.
A Florida bankruptcy court considered a case where two married bankruptcy debtors claimed a homestead exemption for the value of a residential trailer situated on a valuable parcel of raw land. The debtors stated that they intended to make the property their permanent home, that they obtained a residential permit to occupy the trailer, and that the trailer is connected to electric and water utilities.
On the other hand, the creditors pointed out that although the debtors had some government permits, their trailer was “illegal” because it violated Code Enforcement laws, the residential permit was only temporary, and the debtors themselves admitted that they could not afford to construct a permanent house on the property.
The bankruptcy court upheld the debtor’s homestead exemption. The Court said that the Florida Constitution requires only that the debtor have some form of ownership interest in the property, occupy the property, and intend to live there permanently. The court said a temporary trailer met these Constitutional requirements. The court also cited a prior court statement that an occupied tree house or a tent on real estate could be a Florida homestead. See Case 2-22-bk-00551, Doc 69.
About the Author
Jon Alper is an expert in asset protection planning for individuals and small businesses.
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