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District of Columbia Homestead Laws

State laws provide homestead exemptions that allow struggling homeowners to remain in their primary residence after filing for bankruptcy, without fear of losing their home. Property owners may declare a portion of their equity as a homestead under most state laws, typically with a limit on equity value and/or square footage. The federal government also offers homestead protections, which actually cover more types of property than most state laws, but homeowners may not claim both exemptions.

Brief Overview of Washington, D.C. Homestead Protection Laws

Washington, D.C. has a very unique homestead protection law that identifies several different types of property that may be exempted in a bankruptcy filing. For example, D.C. debtors may invoke the district's homestead protections for a motor vehicle (just one, up to $2,575 in value); up to $8,625 worth of household goods; and even the family photo library, up to $400 worth.

Also, D.C. property owners may exempt the entire value of their homes as long as they are primary residences. If you purchased your home within 1,215 days (almost 3 1/2 years) of filing for bankruptcy, however, the exemption is limited to $155,675.

Additional details about the District of Columbia's homestead protection law are listed in the following box. See FindLaw's Bankruptcy section for related articles.

Code Section 15-501 (personal property)

Max. Property Value That May Be Exempt from Seizure of Sale

(see statute for complete list of exemptions)

  • The debtor's interest, not to exceed $2,575 in value, in one motor vehicle
  • The debtor's interest, not to exceed $425 in value, in any particular item or $8,625 in aggregate value in household furnishings, household goods, wearing apparel, appliances, books, animals, crops, or musical instruments, that are held primarily for the personal family or household use of the debtor or a dependent of the debtor
  • The debtor's aggregate interest in any property, not to exceed $850 in value
  • The debtor's aggregate interest, not to exceed $1,625 in value, in any implements, professional books, or tools of the trade of the debtor or the trade of a dependent of the debtor (this exemption shall also apply to merchants)
  • Any unmatured life insurance contract owned by the debtor, other than a credit life insurance contract
Maximum Acreage (Urban) n/a
Maximum Acreage (Rural) n/a

Note: State laws tend to change from time to time, most often through the enactment of new legislation but sometimes through judicial action or other means. You may want to contact a District of Columbia debtor/creditor attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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District of Columbia Homestead Laws: Related Resources

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