Requirements for Massachusetts Homestead Exemption: Can Debtors Exempt Principal Residence Occasionally Rented as Short-Term Lodging?
By: Sean R. Higgins and David A. Mawhinney
Should a Massachusetts homeowner be allowed to claim a homestead exemption in a principal residence that is also used for business or other commercial purposes? Answering this question several years ago as a matter of first impression, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts adopted a fact-intensive, case-by-case inquiry into the “predominant use” of the property. The predominant use test was developed to address the point at which an owner forfeits homestead protection in the pursuit of commercial activity. The inquiry recognizes the ubiquity of the home office or boarder in modern residences. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Katz’s recent opinion in In re Shove takes a fresh look at the Massachusetts Homestead Statute and rejects the predominant use inquiry as unnecessary and, in some cases, unduly burdensome on the homesteader.