Generally speaking, you must refile your homestead exemption if there is a change in your property's deed. That said, the homestead exemption laws vary from state to state, and it's imperative that you check with your county's tax assessor's office to be sure whether you must refile if you have refinanced your loan -- particularly if you have obtained a new mortgage.
Exemptions, Debt and Taxes
Homestead laws cover two financial bases. One is the amount of property tax you pay; filing for a homeowner's or mortgage-holder's exemption saves you a substantial amount of tax money in some states. The other role of homestead law is to protect some of your equity if you are forced to sell your home to pay debts. The two functions are split in several states. California, for example, has a homeowner's property tax exemption and a homestead exemption for debtors. The homestead exemption is automatic for some debts, but you will have to file for homestead protections for others.
Refinancing May Require Refiling
Refinancing may change the payment schedule, the interest rate or both on an existing mortgage. In that case, you probably won't need to refile your homestead exemption; the deed and title remain the same as the documents on file with your county tax assessor. States differ, however. Indiana, for example, specifically states that you must refile if you refinance; Oklahoma specifically states that you don't have to refile after refinancing. Note, too, that in general, the homestead exemption applies to you and your house together -- it doesn't go with you when you move.
Changes in Ownership
The definition of refinancing extends to extinguishing an old mortgage and taking on a new one. Most states require you to refile, because a new mortgage changes the deed, as does any change in ownership. If you turn your house over to a trust, you will usually need to refile. If you marry, remarry or lose a spouse -- whether it is because of death, divorce or legal separation -- you will probably have to refile. Be aware that various states set deadlines for filing for an exemption to cover the current tax year. In Oklahoma, the deadline is March 15. In California, it's Feb. 15.
Changes in Your Tax Status
There are also times when your financial circumstances change in ways that trigger a requirement to refile. In several states, including Mississippi, you qualify for a lower tax burden after you turn 65, but you have to refile to get the reduction. Occasionally, a state will rejigger its administrative system and require new filings -- homeowners in Indiana had to start verifying the accuracy of their homestead exemptions in 2010, for instance. Be sure you check with your county's office of property tax assessments if you're unsure of your state's laws.
- California State Board of Equalization: Exemptions -- Homeowners'
- Madison County, IN: County Treasurer --Frequently Asked Questions -- How Can I File for Tax Exemptions
- TulsaCounty.org: Requirement for Homestead Exemption Applications
- Leflore County Tax Office -- Homestead Exemption
- NWI.com: Lake County Tax Bills Due Nov. 30; Homeowners Must Refile for Homestead Exemption
- IBJ.com: Homeowners Need to Refile for Homestead Tax Break
Sarah Brumley has written extensively on business and health-industry topics since 1995. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from Funk & Wagnall's yearbooks to "Medical Economics," a magazine for physicians. She holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.