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Can the Homestead Exemption Apply to a Mobile Home in Probate?

The homestead exemption in Florida can protect a home from creditor claims when it meets certain requirements. Pursuant to the Florida constitution in Article X, Section 4(a), real property can qualify as a homestead “if located outside a municipality, to the extent of one hundred sixty acres of contiguous land and improvements there […]; or if located within a municipality, to the extent of one-half acre of contiguous land, upon which the exemption shall be limited to the residence of the owner or the owner’s family.”

In a probate, if the primary residence of the decedent, or person who passed away, is on land that is less than one-half acre and is located inside a municipality, it is probably homestead property. This exemption would also apply when the debtor lives in a mobile home and owns the land upon which the mobile home is located. But what if the decedent lived in a mobile home that was owned, but was located on property that was being rented? Can the mobile home itself be determined as homestead?

Though it may not be mentioned specifically in the Florida state constitution, courts and legislation have expanded the homestead exemption in some situations. For example, Florida Statute Section 222.05 provides in the case of protection against forced sale of homestead: “any person owning and occupying any dwelling house, including a mobile home used as a residence, or modular home, on land not his or her own which he or she may lawfully possess, by lease or otherwise, and claiming such house, mobile home, or modular home as his or her homestead, shall be entitled to the exemption of such house, mobile home, or modular home from levy and sale as aforesaid.

In this statute, a house, mobile home and modular home were granted equal protection as homestead, even if the land on which they are situated was not owned. The Courts have gone as far to say that, in certain circumstances, a motor coach, travel trailer, even boats can qualify as homestead. In In re Bubnak, 176 B.R. 601 (Bankr. M.D. Fla. 1994), the court held that a motor coach qualified as a homestead since it was the debtor’s permanent residence and was permanently hooked up to utilities. Similarly, in In re Meola, 158 B.R. 881 (Bankr. S.D. Fla. 1993), the court found that a travel trailer qualified as the debtor’s homestead and, thus, the debtor could benefit from the homestead exemption.

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