Legal requirements for homestead exemption in Florida


Mark: This question primarily deals with the homestead exemption and the question is what exactly is required legally in order to establish the fact that you live in your home and in my case, I take care of my mom and she's in a different house. Sometimes I spend a night over there. She's 82 years old, so I'm over there a lot. I’m basically sleeping at her place.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Mark, first I want to make you and the listeners aware that there really are two homestead exemptions. One has to do with your real estate taxes. If it is your home, you live there, you own it, you apply with the county tax appraiser’s office, and you're granted homestead exemption, they will knock $50,000 off the assessed value of your property. That will save you about $750 a year in real estate taxes.

The other homestead exemption is given to you by the Florida constitution which says that no creditor may take away the home of an individual here in the state of Florida. Mark, are we talking about homestead exemption for real estate tax purposes or for creditor claims?

Mark: That’s a good question. I hadn’t thought about that before.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Now are we talking about homestead exemptions for you or for your mom?

Mark: No, for me. But I'm just the former of those two choices.

Attorney Tom Olsen: You own a home. Is that right, Mark?

Mark: Yes.

Attorney Tom Olsen: In what county is that property located in?

Mark: Orange County.

Attorney Tom Olsen: And if I looked at your driver’s license, your route to registration, the electric bill, all of those things are in your name, I assume. Right?

Mark: Yes.

Attorney Tom Olsen: That would make it pretty clear to me that you’d be entitled to homestead exemption.

Mark: Well, very well. I just was wondering if this is a matter of the percentage of nights that you slept or anything like that.

Attorney Tom Olsen: You could talk to the appraiser’s office about that. They say at least 50%. I'm not sure that that’s really relevant but I would say this, we’re talking about homestead exemption for real estate tax purposes. I do want to say this, married couples here in the state of Florida, you are only entitled to one homestead exemption.

Over the past years, I've seen a married couple and they own a home in Orange County, they got a condo in Volusia County. He was claiming homestead exemption on the Orange County property; she was claiming a homestead exemption on the Volusia condo. No, married couples, you only get one homestead exemption and counties are cross comparing homestead exemption roles now and catching people who are doing double dipping on those things as well.

Also, I'm getting more clients these days that call me and say, “Tom, I got a letter from homestead exemption’s office. They are denying my homestead exemption. They want back taxes, penalties, and interests, and the reason they're doing this is because the electric bill is not in my name.”

They're actually going out and looking at utility bills to make sure if you're claiming homestead exemption that the utility bills are actually in your name. Now in that case, the client had a legitimate reason why they were not in your name but I'm telling you, in these days when governments are looking for more revenue, they're looking at homestead exemptions and making people qualify and confirm that they're really entitled to them. Mark, hopefully that answered your question for you.