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When filing for bankruptcy, many homeowners assume they will lose everything. However, the Arizona Homestead Act was put in place to protect homeowners and let them maintain equity through the Homestead Exemption. Under ARS 33-1101, homeowners can exempt up to $150,000 of equity in their home from attachment, execution, and forced sale.

Ahead are the most common questions about Arizona’s homestead exemption, answered.

How Do I Qualify for the Exemption?

Any person, married or single, age 18 and older residing in the state of Arizona is entitled to own a domicile and hold a homestead. Further, homestead protection applies to dwelling houses, condominiums, mobile homes, and the land upon which that mobile home is located if the person resides in any of these places. If you qualify, the homestead exemption automatically attaches to the person’s interest in the identifiable cash proceeds from the voluntary or involuntary sale of the property.

Only one property can qualify for exemption. Homeowners may be required to designate which owned property is the homestead. Further, there is only one homestead exemption per household, meaning that married couples cannot “double” their exemption.

How Much Equity is Protected?

The Arizona Homestead Exemption protects up to $150,000 in equity from general creditors. (Note: This does not apply to mortgage companies or any creditor who has been given a consensual lien from the homeowner.)

The exemption amount refers to the person’s equity rather than the property’s market value. For example, if the value of the home was $300,000 with a mortgage of $150,000, the home would be protected because the homeowner’s equity amount is within the limits of the exemption. It could not be seized by anyone except the mortgage company or consensual lien holder.

Another example: If that same home were worth $400,000, the excess $100,000 would be subject to the claims of creditors. If a sale were then forced, the mortgage company would receive their $150,000 first, and the owner would receive their $150,000 (the homestead exemption amount) second. The exemption amount would then be protected as a separate account that cannot be used for any other purpose. Protection is available for 18 months or until the person establishes a new homestead, whichever period is shorter.

What if I Got Divorced or Had Children?

The exemption remains the same if both married people lived in the same homestead regardless of divorce or the addition of children. Spouses, current or former, cannot double the exemption amount.

It’s worth noting that if the Arizona court has reduced a child or spousal support arrearage to a judgment, a forced sale may be made to satisfy that judgment because the homestead exemption does not apply.

Can I Use Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions?

While some states allow bankruptcy filers to use federal bankruptcy exemptions, Arizona law requires them to use the state exemptions.

Where Can I Find More Information?

Arizona’s homestead exemption is found in the Arizona Revised Statutes at Title 33, Chapter 8, sections 1101-1153 (33 A.R.S. § § 1101 et seq.) online at http://www.azleg.gov/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.asp.

Find an Experienced Phoenix Real Estate Attorney

Facing a possible foreclosure is a stressful experience and you do not want to attempt to negotiate or handle the experienced real estate attorneys working for a lender on your own.  The attorneys at MacQueen & Gottlieb have significant experience with the foreclosure process, trustee’s sales, and homestead laws in Arizona. Our team can review your case, detail your available options, represent your and legal interests in any negotiations with a lender. Contact us today at 602-412-1031 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment online.

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