In re: Tullar; Bk 10-11214 (Judge Kaplan; August 18, 2010). It would be an understatement to say this was a case of first impression. The debtor’s sole residence was the sleeper cab in his Peterbilt truck. Did the truck qualify for New York’s homestead exemption? Judge Kaplan in Buffalo concluded that it did, at least in part.
The judge observed that there was no other sleeper-cab-as-homestead case anywhere in the country, and analogous cases concerning house boats or motor homes in other states were of no help, given the different text of other state’s homestead exemption laws.
New York’s exemption statute was amended to include “a mobile home” in 1980. The purpose of the amendment was to clearly exempt manufactured homes on rented lots like trailer parks.
Reflecting on the interpretation requirements of New York Statutes, Sections 111 and 127, one provision (Sect. 127) states a statute should be interpreted considering the circumstances surrounding the enactment, while the other (Sect. 111) states that statutes should reflect legislative intent. Here, Judge Kaplan assumed that the legislature, when it added mobile homes to the homestead exemption, was only thinking of non-moving residences. On the other hand, the over-all legislative intent of the homestead exemption is to protect a debtor’s dwelling, whatever it is.
The judge finally concluded that in equity the debtor’s residence was his residence, however unusual, and should be exemptible. As the debtor drove the truck 1/3 of the time for work, he only used it 2/3 of the time as his residence and, therefore, only 2/3 of the equity could be exempted as a homestead (he could claim the $600 tools of the trade exemption for the 1/3 non-residential equity.)