In general, homestead bankruptcy exemptions are for owned residences, not a rental residence. You may be correct in your assumption about exemptions and your situation, but in many situations exemptions are not simple or straightforward and I strongly recommend that you consult with a qualified bankruptcy attorney in your area.
Exemptions can be complicated, as each state has their own set of exemptions & ways of applying them.
Since even experienced Bankruptcy attorney's can disagree about your rights, I would really urge you to retain an experienced Bankruptcy attorney. Once you get into a Chapter 7, you may not be able to get out, so you should look before you leap into this process.
735-5/12-901 - Real or personal property, including farms, lots, builidings, condos, co-ops or mobile homes up to $15,000. Spouse or child of deceased owner can claim homestead (735-5/12-902). Sale proceeds up to 1 year (735-5/12-906). With some limitations, Illinois recognizes tenancy by the entirety (750-65/22).
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Disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted in the States of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts only and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to those three States. This advice is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation. Facts and laws change and these possible changes will affect the advice provided here. Consult an attorney in your locale before you act on any of this advice. You should not rely on this advice alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney client relationship. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author only and the fact that he has worked as an Assistant District Attorney; State Supreme Court Clerk; Special Assistant United States Attorney (Hawaii); Assistant Cornell University Counsel or Judge Advocate, United States Marine Corps should not be relied upon to assume that these statements reflect the policy of these organizations.
When it comes to exemptions, only a licensed person in your state is qualified enough to advise you. In Virginia, for example, the homestead exemption currently covers all real and personal property, regardless of its status.
[I am a Virginia-licensed attorney. This communication is intended as general information and not specific legal advice, and this communication does not create an attorney-client relationship.]
If you have stated everything accurately, then you are correct. You would have no basis to use the homestead exemption since you do not own a home. Your personal property may be covered under various exemptions. Other applicable exemptions should be used before the "wild card" exemption.
I do not recommend filing bankruptcy on your own. There are too many complex issues. I have seen several posts on this site for debtors who filed on their own and are seeking counsel concerning complications. Most of them will have a hard time finding an attorney to get involved to unwind the mess without the attorney charging several times what would originally have been paid.
The scope of this space does not afford an opportunity to assess the situation and advise you. I recommend you assemble for legal consultation: (1) your income information for July 2010 through the present, including wages and unemployment during that period; (2) all your bills (three months’ copies neatly assembled); (3) last four years’ tax returns; (4) a credit report (use www.annualcreditreport.com to obtain free report if not requested in last year); and (5) other information that may apply, such as copies of lawsuits. Call at your earliest convenience to afford the most opportunity in which to be advised about your best course. You are not required to use an attorney in your area.