Last month, the hot topic in the Tennessee creditor rights lawyer world was the rumored increase in the Tennessee homestead exemption.
Well, “rumor” is an understatement. This proposed change had real momentum and had a very strong chance of happening.
As you’d expect, this proposed change completely freaked out the creditor lawyers. I’m on the Tennessee Bar Association’s Creditor’s Practice Executive Committee, and here’s an excerpt of an email I received about it all:
This bill is bizarre. The exemption would go from the current $5,000.00-$25,000.00 to $150,000.00-$750,000.00 – a 3,000% increase!
This proposal should be officially opposed by the TBA. It would have a huge impact on banks’ and businesses’ ability to be repaid their just debts and judgments. Judgment debtors could hide any monetary assets they have in real estate and avoid having to repay what they promised to pay. This bill would legislatively tell debtors they do not have to repay their debts.
This sounds like something which Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might suggest.
This is not a close call. This bill is off the charts bad.
So, yes, the creditor response was pretty clear, and a quick coalition formed involving the Tennessee Banker’s Association, the Tennessee Bar Association, and a handful of other similar groups.
In the end, the House Judiciary Committee deferred the homestead bill until next year. The bill will be moved to the committee’s first calendar of next year. When it comes up then, it will be in the form considered by the Committee in its last consideration, which was in the “flat” amount of $35,000.
Ultimately, this seems like a fair amendment. Tennessee is pretty squarely in the bottom, with one of the lowest homestead exemptions in the nation.
When it comes up, I hope the sponsors propose an increase that reflects an adjustment for inflation, and not some drastic increase designed to make Tennessee a haven for asset protection. The fatal flaw in this proposed change during this session was that there was no justification or supporting data for an increase to $750,000 or a million dollars, especially when exemptions are designed to provide a “fresh start” to broke judgment debtors. It all seemed arbitrary.
Oh well, stay tuned, and I’ll report back in 2020.