Last week, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously ruled that foreigners and out-of-state residents may qualify for the homestead exemption from property taxes found in the Florida Constitution when their home is the permanent residence of a dependent who is eligible for the homestead exemption.
The case involved David and Ana Andonie, who migrated to Florida from Honduras on investment visas, and were denied a 2006 homestead exemption on their $1 million home despite the fact that their three minor children were born in Miami, were U.S. citizens, and had never resided outside the State of Florida. The Miami-Dade Property Appraiser denied their request for an exemption, arguing that, under common law, the children were residents of Honduras because that country was the permanent residence of their parents.
Justice Jorge Labarga, writing for the court, stated that the language of the Florida Constitution trumped an existing law (Section 196.031(1) of the Florida Statutes) which required that a person seeking a homestead exemption must permanently reside in the home. The court determined that it was enough that the homeowner have a dependent who was a permanent resident. Perhaps foreshadowing this outcome, when the case was originally argued in May, Justice Barbara Pariente remarked that the claim by the county that the children were residents of Honduras was “absolutely incredible.”
In 2006, Florida homeowners were allowed to claim a $25,000 exemption on their property taxes as part of their homestead exemption. In 2008, the Florida Constitution was amended to provide for an additional $25,000 exemption as well as a 3% cap on annual increased assessments and the allowance of portability of the exemption from home-to-home. This year, Florida voters will return to the polls to vote on a number of tax-focused constitutional amendments, including one which would provide an additional 50% homestead exemption to first time homeowners (defined as those who have not owned property within the 3 calendar years immediately preceding the purchase), which would be phased out over a period of time.
If you have questions about your Florida homestead protection or any Florida tax obligation, contact a Florida tax attorney who can assist you.