If you own a house in Arizona, you may be able to take advantage of the Arizona Homestead Exemption. It protects up to $250,000 of equity in a single house, condominium or apartment, or mobile home. For a married couple, it protects up to $500,000 of equity. To qualify, you must live in the home as your primary residence.
What is the Arizona Homestead Exemption?
In bankruptcy, a homestead exemption protects equity in your home.
Under the Arizona homestead exemption law, the following are exempt (up to applicable exemption amount, which is discussed below):
- your house and the land upon which it resides
- your condominium or cooperative
- your mobile home, and
- the land upon which your mobile home sits if you own the land.
In each of the above instances, the dwelling (house, condominium, cooperative, or mobile home) must be your residence— that is, you must live in the dwelling.
The Arizona homestead exemption also applies to cash proceeds from the sale of a homestead property. These proceeds remain exempt for 18 months from the sale of the property, or until the proceeds are used to purchase a new homestead, whichever time is shorter.
The Arizona Homestead Exemption is Automatic. However …
The Arizona homestead exemption is automatic – you don’t have to file a homestead declaration to claim the homestead exemption in bankruptcy. However, if you have more than one property to which the homestead exemption could reasonably apply, a creditor might require you to designate to which property the exemption applies.
Snowbirds Should Record a Declaration of Homestead.
If you live part time in Arizona and part time in another state, we suggest that you “tag” your Arizona home as your homestead. That will help prevent an aggressive lawyer from bringing this up as an issue if you ever get sued.
Get a Free Declaration of Homestead.
Our law firm will do this for our clients for free if they have us prepare their estate plan. If you are interested in recording a Declaration of Homestead on your home, give us a call at 602-443-4888.
What Are My Eligibility Requirements?
There are several requirements you need to meet before you can claim the homestead exemption. First, you must be an Arizona resident. Second, the home you are claiming as your homestead must be in Arizona. Third, you must live in your home as your primary residence.
What If I Own Multiple Properties?
You can only claim one property as your homestead. If you own multiple properties, you need to decide which one is your homestead.
Have us record a Declaration of Homestead on the property you want to protect. Call us at 602-443-4888.
The Arizona Homestead Exemption Changed in 2022
As of January 1, 2022, two big changes happened to the Arizona homestead exemption. This is a big deal for homeowners. After all, a person’s home is often one of their largest investments. If you have a home, you want to protect it. You make sure it’s maintained. You keep insurance on it in case of a fire or other disaster. And it’s where you spend a significant portion of your life. You probably also associate it with your family and love life. It’s where you keep your family photographs and other priceless items.
You may even refer to your home as your castle. That’s where you let your hair down and relax. It’s your safe place.
The Arizona Homestead Exemption Has Increased to $250,000
The first change is that the Arizona homestead exemption has increased from $150,000 to $250,000. Before 2022, an Arizona homeowner had the right to shield $150,000 of equity from creditors. Arizona homeowners could take comfort in the homestead exemption. That is the law that protected part of the equity in their home from legal jeopardy. It didn’t matter how long their list of creditors became. It didn’t matter how much debt they may have incurred; the law protected their home.
As of January 1, 2022, that Arizona homestead exemption has increased to $250,000.
That seems like a good thing, right? Arizona homeowners used to be able to protect only $150,000 of the equity in their homes. Now they can protect $250,000. And this comes at a great time. Property values have skyrocketed recently. And that has resulted in more equity to protect.
BUT … here is why Arizona homeowners are actually less protected now.
But, Judgments Now Automatically Attach to Homesteads!
Arizona’s homestead exemption protection is codified at A.R.S. § 33-1101. The statute previously provided:
“[an]y person the age of eighteen or over, married or single, who resides within the state may hold as a homestead exempt from attachment, execution and forced sale, not exceeding one hundred fifty thousand dollars in value, any one of the following: (1) the person’s interest in real property in one compact body upon which exists a dwelling house in which the person resides; (2) the person’s interest in one condominium or cooperative in which the person resides; (3) a mobile home in which the person resides; or (4) a mobile home in which the person resides plus the land upon which that mobile home is located.”
Also, A.R.S. § 33-964, previously stated that:
“[A] judgment shall become a lien for a period of ten years from the date it is given, on all real property of the judgment debtor except real property exempt from execution, including homestead property.”
Here’s how those two statutes worked together before the recent change in the law. Arizona law held that a judgment did not attach as a lien on Arizonans’ primary residence. It did not matter how much equity there was in the home. Thus, before 2022, debtors were free to sell their homestead property without satisfying any judgment lien. See Pacific Western Bank v. Mark Wallace Castleton, 246 Ariz. 108, 434 P.3d 1187 (App. 2018).
As of 2022, Judgments Automatically Attach to Any Real Property Owned by Debtors in Arizona.
Under the new law, civil judgments automatically attach to any real property owned by debtors. This includes a family’s homestead. Also, the new law applies retroactively to “all judgments without regard to when the judgment was recorded.” Stated another way, any judgment entered against a homeowner—at any time in the past or future for any amount and for any type of debt—will act as an encumbrance on real property. Beginning on January 1, 2022, all creditors will be able to attach their judgments debtors’ primary residences. Those judgments will have to be paid before clear title can transfer to a buyer or in a refinancing of the property. And that means those judgments must now be paid before the owner can receive any of their proceeds from the sale or refinance.
Here’s an example.
A seller lists their home for sale at $700,000. They may owe $350,000 on their existing mortgage or loan note, leaving the homeowner with $350,000 in equity. Under the previous Arizona homestead exemption, the debtor could sell the property and keep 100% of their equity. As of 2022, however, any time a creditor obtains a judgment against a homeowner and properly records the judgment with the county recorder where the property is located, the debt will attach to the home’s equity. So, in this scenario, if the homeowner has multiple judgments or a large money judgment against them, the $350,000 of equity is accessible to all creditors (both the mortgage lender as well as any other creditors holding judgments), subject to the increased homestead exemption of $250,000. Before the title company closes the transaction, the seller’s creditors will need to be paid off.
What This Means for the Future
Buyers and sellers alike should take note of the new Arizona Homestead Exemption. It will likely affect many real estate transactions going forward. Closings may be delayed (or thwarted) while a seller’s creditors are paid off from the sales proceeds. Sellers may be unaware of certain judgments laid upon their properties and need to seek bankruptcy protection to handle such judgments. Even those looking to refinance may be denied or delayed due to unknown judgments. Those judgments might range from unpaid credit card debt to commercial loans that the homeowner personally guaranteed.
Arizona homeowners can determine whether they have any outstanding money judgments that may affect their home value or proceeds derived from a sale by ordering a title report from a reputable title company. A title report will show all of the encumbrances laid against the homeowner’s property.
How To Secure Your Arizona Homestead Exemption.
The current Arizona homestead exemption is $250,000 . You can protect that much in equity in your house (or condo) and the land upon which it is located.
We recommend recording a Declaration of Homestead on your residence. We will do this for you for $300, plus the cost of the recording fee. (The recording fee is $30 in Maricopa County, and varies in other counties.) If you’re interested, give us a call at 602-443-4888.
Determine how much equity you have in your home.
If you own a home outright, you will need to determine what portion of its value is protected by the homestead exemption. This is done by subtracting the total mortgage balance from the fair market value of the property.
Want to Protect Your Home from Lawsuits and Creditors?
If you want to protect your home from judgments and creditors, book a Strategy Session with one of our attorneys. Or just call us at 602-443-4888. We can record a Declaration of Homestead on your residence. That will make it clear to future creditors that your home is your “homestead.”
Another Example of Homestead Protection.
Arizona homestead protection offers unique tax exemptions and protections for homeowners. For example, if a homeowner is facing foreclosure or bankruptcy, the home would be considered exempt from seizure by creditors. Additionally, in certain cases, any part of an estate not sold for debt repayment or probate would be protected under the homestead exemption.
Let us protect your home with an Arizona Homestead Exemption.
If you are a homeowner in Arizona, understanding the homestead exemption is crucial to protecting your property from creditors. Our team of experienced attorneys is here to help you navigate this complex area of law and ensure that your home is protected.
If there is any possibility that a creditor could claim your Arizona home is not your “homestead,” then you should record a Declaration of Homestead with the County Recorder. Our law firm does this for our clients who request it. If you’re interested, give us a call at 602-443-4888 or Schedule a Strategy Session.
If you are unsure whether you qualify for the homestead exemption or want to ensure that your property is properly protected, don’t hesitate to contact us today at 602-443-4888. Our knowledgeable attorneys can help you understand your legal rights and options, and work with you to develop a plan that meets your unique needs.