In bankruptcy, a homestead exemption protects equity in your home. Here you’ll find specific information about the homestead exemption in Rhode Island.
For information about how the homestead exemption works in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, see The Homestead Exemption in Bankruptcy. For more articles on exemptions, see our Bankruptcy Exemptions area.
Under the Rhode Island exemption system, homeowners may exempt up to $500,000 of their home or other property covered by the homestead exemption. Rhode Island also provides a $6,500 wildcard exemption that may be used to protect any assets, including additional value in your homestead (R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-26-4.(16)).
Some states allow married couples filing jointly to double the homestead exemption, but in Rhode Island, you cannot double this exemption.
In Rhode Island, the homestead exemption applies to real property, including a home or other land and buildings that the owner occupies or intends to occupy as a principal residence.
In Rhode Island, you can use either the state exemption system or the federal bankruptcy exemption system (but you can’t pick and choose different exemptions from each system – you have to use all state exemptions or all federal exemptions).
The federal bankruptcy homestead exemption amount changes every three years. To find the current amount, see our article The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions. The exemption may be used for homes, condos, co-ops, mobile homes, and burial plots. Married couples may double this exemption. You can find the federal bankruptcy homestead exemption at 11 U.S.C. §522(d)(1) and (5). If you haven’t lived in Rhode Island for a certain period of time, federal bankruptcy law caps your homestead exemption. To learn more, see The Homestead Exemption in Bankruptcy.
In Rhode Island, the homestead exemption is automatic – you don’t have to file a homestead declaration in order to claim the homestead exemption in bankruptcy.
If property is held as a tenancy in the entirety, it means the property is jointly owned by a married couple as a single marital entity, not as individuals. In some states, a tenancy by the entirety provides additional protection for the owners, because creditors cannot take property owned by a couple to satisfy the debts of only one spouse. While Rhode Island does permit tenancies by the entirety, it also allows creditors to attach a home owned by a married couple to satisfy the debts of only one of them, meaning creditors may attach a lien to the property with the expectation of collecting in the future. Creditors may not force the owners to sell the home to satisfy the debt, but when the tenancy by the entirety is severed, that is, the home is sold or transferred to another owner, the creditor may then collect on the debt.
Rhode Island law provides protection for one burial plot (R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-26-4(5)) and up to $50 worth of holdings in a cooperative association (co-op) (R.I. Gen. Laws § 7-8-25).
Rhode Island’s homestead exemption is found in the Rhode Island General Laws at § 9-26-4.1. To learn how to find state statutes, check out Nolo’s Laws and Legal Research area.