The Ohio Homestead Exemption

Here's everything you need to know about using Ohio's homestead exemption in bankruptcy.

In bankruptcy, a homestead exemption protects equity in your home. Here you’ll find specific information about the homestead exemption in Ohio.

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.

The Ohio Homestead Exemption Amount

Under the Ohio exemption system, homeowners domiciled in Ohio may exempt up to $ 132,900 of equity in their home, or other real or personal property in which they or their dependents reside.

If, after applying the homestead exemption, a relatively small amount of unprotected equity exists, you may still be able to keep your home. Because most trustees deduct the cost of selling the home from the home's value, if there's only a small amount of unprotected equity, the trustee is unlikely to sell the home because there would little or nothing left for your unsecured creditors. In addition, you may use another exemption, such as the wildcard, to protect the remaining nonexempt home equity.

Doubling for Married Couples

Ohio permits you to double the homestead exemption amount if you file bankruptcy jointly with your spouse. This means that a married couple filing jointly in Ohio can exempt up to $265,800 of equity in real or personal property in which they or their dependents reside.

Special Rules for Dower Interests

If only one filing spouse is the owner of title and the other spouse possesses only a dower interest by virtue of marriage (Under O.R.C 2103, dower entitles the non-owner spouse to one third of the value of the property), a trustee could argue that the non-title owner may not utilize the exemption in excess of the value of the dower interest.

Example.  Say that a man owns a home and then marries, but does not transfer ownership of the home to his wife by title. The value of the home is $270,000. The husband may use the homestead exemption to protect $132,900 worth of equity. The wife’s dower interest is one third of the home's value, or $90,000. The wife may only use her homestead exemption up to the value of her dower interest, that is, $90,000. So, the couple may protect up to $222,900 of equity in the home using the homestead exemption.

The Scope of the Ohio Homestead Exemption

In Ohio, the homestead exemption applies to real and personal property in which you reside, including but not limited to your home, condominium, mobile, or manufactured home. Ohio debtors or their dependents must reside in the property in which they claim the homestead exemption at the time bankruptcy is filed. Ohio does not permit you to apply the homestead exemption to burial plots; however, O.R.C. 2329.66(A)(8) provides an exemption specifically for burial plots.

Can You Use the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions in Ohio?

In Ohio, you may use only the state exemption system when filing bankruptcy. Ohio has opted out of the federal exemption system, and thus does not permit debtors to utilize the federal bankruptcy exemptions (although federal nonbankruptcy exemptions may be available to Ohio debtors, such as exemptions for wages, Social Security, and veterans’ benefits).

Homestead Declarations

In Ohio, the homestead exemption is automatic – you don’t have to file a homestead declaration in order to claim the homestead exemption in bankruptcy.

Real Property Held as Tenancy in the Entirety in Ohio

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. Ohio law permitted tenancies in the entirety to be created between 1972 and 1984. A tenancy in the entirety established during this period remains valid, but such tenancies may no longer be created. In accordance with Ohio case law, a tenancy by the entirety that was created prior to April 4, 1985 may be exempt against debts owed by only one spouse. (In re Pernus, 143 B.R. 856 (N.D. Ohio 1992), In re Cline, 164 B.R. 592 (Bankr.S.D. Ohio 1994).)

Finding the Ohio Homestead Exemption Statute

Ohio’s homestead exemption is found in the Ohio state statutes at Ohio Revised Code Section 2329.66. To learn how to find state statutes, check out Nolo’s Laws and Legal Research area.

Periodic Adjustments of Ohio Exemption Amounts

In accordance with O.R.C. 2329.66(B), the Ohio exemption amounts will be adjusted on the first day of April of every third calendar year, starting on April 1, 2010. The exemption amounts will be adjusted to reflect the consumer price index for urban consumers, as provided by the United States Department of Labor. The adjusted amounts are retroactive and will affect the judgments entered during the period ending on December 31 of the year preceding the adjustment.

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