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California Homestead Laws

Homestead protection laws protect homeowners and other small property owners from being left homeless during times of economic strife. Specifically, homestead laws allow individuals to declare a portion of their property as "homestead" and therefore mostly off-limits to creditors. Under California homestead laws, property owners may declare at least $75,000 worth of their property as a protected homestead in a bankruptcy proceeding or other actions by creditors.

The table below highlights the basic provisions of California's homestead protection laws. See Bankruptcy Exemptions: Chapter 7 for more information.

Code Section

Civ. Proc. §704.710, et seq. For money judgments

Max. Property Value That May Be Designated 'Homestead'

$175,000 if either spouse is over 65 or disabled and unable to engage in substantial employment; $175,000 if person is 55 or older with gross income of not more than $25,000 or if married not more than $35,000 and sale is involuntary; $100,000 if debtor or spouse resides in house with at least one member of the family with no interest in the homestead; $75,000 for all others

Maximum Acreage (Urban)

-

Maximum Acreage (Rural)

-

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a California bankruptcy attorney or California real estate lawyer, or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Regulation of Homestead Filing Services

It should be noted that non-attorneys may provide homeowners with assistance in filing homestead declarations -- who referred to as “Homestead Filing Services” providers. Because some providers were misrepresenting the need for filing services, as well as the legal definition of California’s homestead exemption (saying, for example, that filing a declaration unconditionally protects the property from all creditors), California began regulating homestead filing services to protect homeowners from exploitation. These regulations place the following conditions on all non-attorney providers who wish to charge for their services:

  • A provider must properly prepare a homestead declaration;
  • A provider must have the declaration notarized and pay the notary’s fee;
  • A provider must have the declaration recorded at the county recording office within 10 days of being notarized and pay the recording fee;
  • A provider must give the homeowner a written disclosure statement before requiring payment; and
  • A provider may not charge more than $25 for his or her services (including notary and recording fees).

More Information

If you need assistance with your homestead declaration, check out the legal guide published by the California Department of Consumer Affairs detailing the regulation of homestead filing services. However, because of the high stakes involved in these types of cases (i.e. the potential loss of the family home), it is highly advised that you consult with a local bankruptcy or real estate attorney.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified attorney.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)