Protect Your Home: 4 Homestead FAQ

The Homestead Act in Massachusetts protects your home from being sold to pay off unsecured debts such as credit card debt or claims from a lawsuit. While it won’t protect your house from mortgage debt or other liens on the property, the Homestead Act can provide many benefits to home owners.

Here are 4 of the more commonly asked questions regarding the Homestead Act:

Am I eligible? To qualify you must own a home in Massachusetts. The home can be a single-family home, a 2-4 unit multi-family home, a condo, a mobile home or cooperative housing. The home must be your primary residence, so if you own two or more homes only the one you use as your primary residence will qualify for protection. You can be the sole owner, joint owner or the beneficiary of a trust as long as the home is your primary residence.

How do I apply? You don’t have to do anything to get homestead protection up to $125,000. To get up to $500,000 protection, you must file a Declaration of Homestead with the Registry of Deeds in your county or district. There is a $35 fee payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for filing.

Is there anything I’m not protected from? The Homestead Act won’t protect you from debt secured directly by your home, such as a mortgage. The Act also doesn’t cover the sale of the home for non-payment of state and local taxes, unpaid child support and state-ordered repayments for fraud, mistake, duress, undue influence or lack of capacity.

Can I terminate my Homestead protection? Yes, you can stop your protection by selling the home to a non-family member or if you abandon the home. Extended military service doesn’t count as abandonment. You can also make a Declaration on another home. In that case, the protection shifts to the new home and no longer applies to the old one.

The Homestead Act can provide valuable protection to Massachusetts home owners. For some families it might mean staying in the house they’ve always wanted rather than giving up on the dream of home ownership.

For more information visit the Homestead Act.