Florida Homestead Tips and Traps - Part 1

Florida has by far the most desirable legal protections and real property tax benefits on its residents’ primary homes, however, remember that despite such protections, each county has strict rules and keeps a close eye on any potential abuse of such legal protections. There are certain nuances for claiming and/or keeping a homestead exemption on a primary residence. The following are a few tips and traps when it comes to homesteading a primary residence in Florida.

  1. Timing for Homesteading the Property: Did you know that if you were not the owner of a particular parcel of real property as of the first day of the year you are claiming homestead, then your homestead application for that year will be denied? This is true even though the application is not actually due until March 1. This fact may cause purchasers of homes they intend to homestead be more wary that the closing date of any such prospective purchase does not extend beyond December 31st.
  1. Forwarding Mail: The homestead laws state that an individual may claim residence in Florida by living in Florida for six (6) months and one (1) day or more out of each calendar year. That means each resident of Florida can spend time with family in northern states and reside in Florida for the winter months (as long as the six (6) months and one (1) day rule is satisfied). A common “red flag” that leads the Property Appraiser to investigate how much time a Florida resident is actuallyspending in Florida vs. another state is any forwarding, by the homestead applicant, of their mail. In some cases, the Property Appraiser can catch wind of such forwarding and inquire on why forwarding began. At that point, the resident may become at risk of losing their homestead exemption during said investigation.
  1. Married Couples Must Apply Together for Homestead: One common scenario is where a married couple own property in Florida as well as another state (New York for example). In such case, the first spouse desires to become a Florida resident and claim homestead on the Florida real property and the other spouse prefers to remain a resident New York for work and/or other related reasons. Such spouse continues to claim Homestead on the New York property, in good faith, truly believing that each spouse is separate from the other. Such married couple will be shocked to learn that they cannot actually maintain two (2) domiciles or two (2) homesteads because a married couple is considered as one (1) unit in the eyes of the law. Therefore, the married couple must choose one (1) state as their “primary home” and give up any homestead and/or other benefits that they may be receiving at the time from any other state. This is true even if the Exemption is initially accepted because the Property Appraiser may find this information out at a later time and revoke the Exemption. In such case, the Property Appraiser may also choose to impose penalties for such actions as further discussed below.
  1. Improper Filing of Homestead Can Lead to Penalties: In most cases, failing to disclose certain facts related to the homesteading of real property may seem like an innocent act. To the contrary, the Property Appraiser’s office, in general, has been extremely strict in applying penalties to any individuals who have claimed homestead improperly, including the payment of any back real estate taxes (that were initially discounted pursuant to the homestead), loss of the “Save Our Homes” cap, interest and/or additional monetary penalties. Such penalties are applied on a case-by-case basis and certain counties are stricter than others. The best way to ensure that you do not become subject to any such penalties is to follow the homestead exemption rules as strictly as possible.

For more Florida Homestead tips and traps stay tuned for next week’s blog. Contact The Presser Law Firm, P.A. for a complimentary consultation to learn more about Asset Protection, Business Law, Estate Planning, and/or any other legal needs that you may have.

The Presser Law Firm, P.A.
6199 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton FL 33487
(561) 953-1050 or e-mail Info@AssetProtectionAttorneys.com