‘Homestead’ (or perhaps ‘homesteading’) is a word you’ve probably heard, but aren’t clear on what it is or means. So when we talk about homestead exemptions for housing, there can be some confusion. A “homestead” is defined as a house, or more specifically a farmhouse, and “homesteading” is defined as, “a lifestyle of self-sufficiency.” Homestead law allows an individual to register a portion of their primary residence (and only their primary residence) as “homestead” to reduce the taxes paid on it. The original goal was to preserve the family farm, home, or other assets in the face of severe economic conditions. See how it all connects?
Homestead Law Today
Homestead exemptions exclude a portion of a home’s value from taxation, so they lower the taxes. For example, if a home is appraised at $100,000, and the owner qualifies for a $25,000 exemption (this is the amount mandated for school districts), they will pay school taxes on the home as if it was worth only $75,000. It also makes that portion of the individual’s estate off-limits to most creditors and protects that value from financial situations that arise due to the death of the homeowner’s spouse (to guarantee that the surviving spouse has shelter).
Now the real disconnect between the homestead exemption and homestead/homesteading is that the only requirement needed to get a homestead exemption is that the home is the owner’s primary residence–no farming necessary.
What Does This Mean For HOA Collections?
Homestead, homestead exemptions, and homesteading are all a little confusing. So at some point, you start to wonder how the exemption might impact your community funds or a future collections process. Here’s what you should know:
HOAs and Condo Associations Can Still Collect
Luckily, there are some exceptions to the homestead exemption: taxing authorities (state and federal), mortgage lenders, and the community association where the property is located (that’s you!) all have the ability to foreclose and collect if payments are missed.
So if one of your homeowners is behind on their assessment fees and all efforts to collect the debt have failed and the next step for your community is to foreclose, even if they have a homestead exemption, your community association is legally one of the only entities able to go to foreclosure.
Homesteading Not Required
Even though “homestead,” “homestead exemption,” and “homesteading” all call back to farming in some way, the homeowner doesn’t have to have a farm, product, or any other traditional ‘homestead’ good or service to take advantage of the homestead law–they just have to own the property it’s being applied to.
That said, there has been a massive resurgence of homesteading in the millennial generation–sort of. Thousands of influencers across social media document their zero-waste lives that use composting, in-home gardening, and reusable items (like fabric grocery bags, beeswax wrappings, and mason jars) to show that they can successfully and beautifully live off of only what they sustain and grow. Some even make their own products to sell like all-natural candles or deodorants.
The Homestead Exemption is Not a Homesteading Hall Pass
Depending on the location and size of your community, you may have a few homesteading homeowners yourself. Maybe they’re growing fresh habaneros and cilantro in their garden for homemade salsa, or knitting sweaters out of thread they made from their pet cat Fluffy’s fur (yes that’s a real thing–a real weird thing in my opinion but to each their own).
Whatever they’re doing, they still have to follow the HOA or condo association’s community guidelines. A homestead exemption does not give any homeowner the right to ignore community rules, even if those rules might clash with their new homesteading lifestyle. If they want to raise chickens to have fresh eggs in the morning and so they don’t have to go out and buy eggs from the grocery store, more power to them, but they probably can’t do it in an HOA, and they definitely can’t have chickens in a condo building.
Foreclosing in a Homestead State
It’s important to know that the homestead exemption varies widely between each state. Some states like New Jersey don’t even have the exemption at all. So for some HOA or condo associations, foreclosing on a home with a homestead exemption might ever happen. If it does happen in your community, remember that the community association has every right to foreclose and collect on a property even if it has a homestead exemption, but working with a specialized collection agency will help make the process that much smoother.
What you need is a specialized community association collection agency that will work with your owners and recover the past due amounts at no cost and no risk to the association. Give Axela Technologies a call today and receive a no-cost analysis and review of a collections process that will fit your community association delinquency problem.