One of my asset protection clients sold their home when the husband retired and purchased a motor home. Their motor home can be attached to utilities for long-term living. This couple volunteers for the State park service. The State of Florida asks them for help at two or three parks around the State each year.
A few times each year they drive their motor home between State campgrounds for volunteer work. They do not otherwise drive the motor home to go shopping or for pleasure. They have no other residences. . The couple wanted to know if their motor home could be exempt as a homestead from an anticipated civil judgment.
Florida’s homestead law
in the Florida Constitution protects a wide range of shared living arrangements and joint ownership including condos, cooperative apartments, long-term leases and homes titled jointly with other family members. There is a separate Florida statute exempting mobile homes.
There are no statutes or Constitutional language addressing homestead exemption of motorized vehicles including motor homes
There are few cases that have dealt with homestead exemption of a motor home. One bankruptcy case out of the Orlando division held that whether a motor home can be a homestead depends upon the distinct facts of each bankruptcy case. The judge said several facts are relevant including whether a motor home is the debtor’s sole residence, whether the debtors’ have a right to possess the lot, whether the motor home is configured to allow long term habitability such as connection to utilities, and whether the home is road-worthy and operational for transportation etc.
In this case, I think the biggest issue is the fact that the motor home is not permanently affixed to utility connections and is driven on the roads between campsites. These clients’ motor home is a fully operational for transportation.
In my own opinion, if these clients drove their motor home for recreational purposes such as touring the State I do not think the home would be homesteaded. However, because the driving is limited to movement between otherwise permanent campsites for their volunteer work, and because the motor home is in their retirement their primary residence I think the motor home would be exempt.
However, I advised these clients that they should assume their bankruptcy trustee would challenge their homestead exemption and that they would have to argue their position before a bankruptcy judge who could rule either way on these facts.