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Personal Dwelling in CollectionsLester P. Taroff, a Partner in the firm’s Creditors’ Rights Department, received a decision from the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Suffolk, which denied a judgment-debtor the right to claim a homestead exemption for his “motor home”. Under New York law, CPLR §5206, there exists a $50,000.00 Homestead Exemption to enforcement of a money judgment against the judgment-debtor’s principal residence. Included in the exemption statute as property covered by the exemption are “mobile homes”.

The firm’s client had obtained a judgment against the owner of the recreational vehicle “RV” and sought to have it sold by the Suffolk County Sheriff to satisfy the judgment. The judgment-debtor objected to this action, claiming it to be a “motor home” and his primary residence, continuously occupying it as such for over a year, and therefore entitled to the Homestead Exemption under New York law.

In a decision of first impression, Justice Paul J. Baisley, Jr. concluded that a “motor home” or “RV”, as opposed to a “mobile home”, did not qualify for the Homestead Exemption. The Judge concluded that, after applying common definitions of each, the “mobile home” was designed to be a semi-permanent structure and that a “motor home” was “…a large motor vehicle equipped as living quarters.”

It is obvious that a “motor home” is essentially an automobile. An automobile owned by a judgment-debtor can be seized and sold to satisfy a judgment. A proper result was inevitable under that rationale.

The vehicle was sold at Sheriff’s auction in 2009. The client was very pleased with the result and, as the successful bidder, left on vacation to see America via the Interstate Highway System.

For more information on this topic please contact Lester Taroff or Elliott Portman.

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