Following a rough divorce up north a man sails his sailboat to Florida, docks the boat, and thereafter lives on the boat . He registers the dock address as his primary residence on his drivers license and in other government registrations. The man wants to know if his boat is protected as a Florida homestead similar to protection afforded mobile homes.
I have written prior blog posts on this interesting issue. Protection of boats under Florida’s homestead laws has been dealt with from time to time by different bankruptcy court judges. The issue is whether the boat in question is more like a “house” situated on real property or is more like a “boat” used for transportation. The consensus ruling is that boats used as a primary residence are protected if they are docketed permanently and are not navigable. If a boat is in condition to travel by water the courts have held that it is not a permanent residence eligible for homestead protection. It makes no difference if the boat is a “houseboat,” or if it powered by motor or wind.
For instance, I recently met a new client who lived on a motorized boat. He said the motor was broken and the boat could move on the water. In my opinion, that boat could qualify as his homestead until such time as the motor was repaired. However, I could also understand a judge ruling that the broken boat did not qualify because it had a motor attached regardless of whether the motor required fixing. Homestead boats will be evaluated on the facts of each situation.