Georgia homestead laws are silver lining to foreclosure

Losing a job in Georgia is a stressful event that continues to affect a person long after the deed is done. Unfortunately, one of the results may be another harrowing event, loss of a home, which can follow rapidly on the heels of the job loss. Having that happen may leave a couple or family in fear of what the future holds. One silver lining that can provide comfort in the face of a home foreclosure is the state’s homestead laws.

According to FindLaw, homeowners can proclaim part of their real property is a “homestead” and safeguard it from creditors. Georgia’s homestead laws are meant to help prevent homelessness as a result of financial distress. They allow homeowners to keep up to $10,000 of the value of their home as a means of staying on their feet as they work out their financial woes.

In order to declare the house and land as a homestead, the owner must be living there; this exemption is not available for property other than the primary residence. It does apply to any type of residence, however, including condos and co-ops.

Another benefit of the homestead laws is property tax exemptions allowed by the state. According to Georgia’s Dept. of Revenue, a homeowner with a homestead exemption is eligible for tax exemptions, provided they owned the residence on Jan. 1 of the taxable year. If the owner is not currently in the home due to health reasons, he or she can still receive the exemption. The deadline for filing the homestead application is the day property tax returns are due, on April 1 of each year.

The standard homestead tax exemption is $2,000 in county and school taxes, excluding those levied by town governments or those that go to pay interest on and retire bond debt. The $2,000 is deducted from an amount that is 40 percent of the homestead’s value. For homeowners 65 or older, the exemption is raised to $4,000, as long as income for both spouses is less than $10,000 in the prior year. This does not include income from pensions, disability income or other retirement sources.

In addition, the state makes exemption allowances for disabled veterans, as well as surviving spouses of those killed during military service, or in the line of duty as a firefighter or police officer. Individual counties and municipalities are also free to offer exemptions in Georgia.

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