Homestead protection law

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If you own your home, the Massachusetts homestead law1 may protect your home's value from the claims of creditors. 

When can the homestead law protect my home?

The homestead law only protects the home you own if:

  • You plan to continue living in the home, and
  • You use the home as your “primary” residence (the place where you live most of the time).

You are allowed to use part of your home for business purposes to get homestead protection.

Your home can be a:

  • House,
  • Manufactured or mobile home, 
  • Condo, or 
  • Co-op 

to be protected by this law.

Note: You may have other income and assets that are protected from creditors if they sue you and win. See Money and Property Protected from Collection.  

How much of my home’s value is protected?

Up to $125,000 is Protected Automatically

In Massachusetts, the homestead law protects up to $125,000 of your home’s value automatically. This means that if you have $125,000 or less in equity, no one can force you to sell your house. 

Up to $500,000 of Protection is Available

You can file a formal Declaration of Homestead to protect up to $500,000 of your home’s value. A Declaration of Homestead becomes effective when it is signed by all the property’s owners and recorded at the Registry of Deeds.


This extra protection only applies to liens and other claims placed on your home after the Declaration of Homestead becomes effective. You can and should file as soon as you become a homeowner.  

What does a Declaration of Homestead do?

As long as the mortgage, taxes, and condo fees are paid regularly and on time, a Homestead Declaration:

  1. Protects up to $500,000 of equity or cash value in your home.
    1. To find out the equity in your home, get the fair market value of your home (how much money you could get for your home if you sold it today). Real estate websites like Zillow estimate fair the market value of homes.
    2. Once you have the fair market value, subtract all mortgages, home equity loans, and liens. The amount left is the equity you have in your home. 
    3. For example, if your home is worth $200,000 and you have a $150,000 mortgage, your equity is $50,000. 
  2. Prevents creditors from taking and auctioning off your home to collect money you owe. This is true only if any of the following people live there:
    1. You,
    2. Other owners of your home,
    3. Your spouse, even if they do not have their name on the title of the home,
    4. Family members, or
    5. Any members of your family who move into your home in the future.*

* Even after you die, the homestead protection still protects these people. If your family members have debts, creditors cannot sell your home to get money. Your family inherits the homestead protection while they are living in your home.

What doesn't a Declaration of Homestead protect me from?

Secured debts

If you promised to give your home to the lender if you do not pay your loan, your loan is “secured." 

Mortgages are a type of secured loan. If you do not pay your mortgage, homestead protection cannot stop the bank from foreclosing on your home.

Priority debts

Examples of priority debts are government taxes, criminal fines, child support, or support for a former spouse. 


A “lien” is a legal claim that gives a creditor the right to take your property if you do not repay a debt.

A lien can be placed on your home before and after you file a declaration of homestead, but no one can collect on the lien(s) that were placed on your home after you filed a declaration of homestead.

Losing your home in some situations

A Declaration of Homestead cannot protect you from losing your home if you sell it to someone who is not in your family, or if you abandon the property.

How do I file a Declaration of Homestead?
  1. Download and fill out the Declaration of Homestead form [PDF].
  2. You will need a notary to witness you signing the form. 
    1. All owners of the home need to sign the Homestead Declaration.
    2. If a home is owned by a trust, the trustee can file a Homestead Declaration on behalf of the trust’s beneficiaries.
  3. File the form with your local Registry of Deeds. Find the Registry of Deeds in your county or district.  
  4. Pay the filing fee. The fee is usually $35.00.
What protections can I get if I am 62 or older, or have a disability?

Owners who are 62 or older, or have a disability, can get extra protection. 

  • Each owner who is 62 or older, or who has a disability, can claim the $500,000 protection for themselves. For example, if you and someone else own your home together and either of you are elderly or disabled, you can protect your property up to $1,000,000.
  • Homestead protection for elderly and disabled people ends when the person dies.
  • If there are 2 owners of a property and only 1 is elderly or disabled, the owner who is not elderly or disabled may also want to file a Homestead Declaration. So, if the elderly or disabled owner dies first, the person who is not elderly or disabled still has homestead protection.

If you have questions, talk to a lawyer



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