NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING
MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL
ANDRE DEQUERVAIN and )
ESTHER MAISCH, )
v. ) Case No. 2D05-1880
V. FRANK DESGUIN, as the Property )
Appraiser of Charlotte County, Florida; )
VICKIE POTTS, as the Tax Collector of )
Charlotte County, Florida; and JAMES )
ZINGALE, as Executive Director of the )
Department of Revenue, State of Florida, )
Opinion filed May 5, 2006.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Charlotte
County; Isaac Anderson, Jr., Judge.
Albert J. Tiseo, Jr., of McKinley, Ittersagen,
Gunderson & Berntsson, P.A., Port
Charlotte, for Appellants.
John L. Polk, Punta Gorda, for Appellees.
Andre DeQuervain and Esther Maisch (the Homeowners) appeal the trial
court's final summary judgment ruling that, because they were not permanent U.S.
residents, they were not entitled to a homestead exemption for their Charlotte County
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home. The Homeowners immigrated from Switzerland and reside legally in the United
States. They had lived and worked in Charlotte County for at least five years. They
held social security numbers and drivers' licenses, paid federal income tax, and had
filed a Declaration of Domicile in Florida. However, they held only temporary visas.
Thus, they could not form the requisite intent to become permanent residents for
purposes of the homestead exemption. We affirm.
The Charlotte County property appraiser denied the Homeowners'
application for a 2003 homestead exemption because the Bureau of Citizenship and
Immigration Services (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service) had not
granted them permanent resident status. Their applications for such status, however,
In their summary judgment motion, the Homeowners asserted that they
had satisfied all the requirements of section 196.015, Florida Statutes (2002). Their
supporting affidavits stated that they met all the requirements of section 196.012 to
prove that they were "permanent residents." The property appraiser offered no
opposing affidavits. The trial court denied the Homeowners' summary judgment motion
and granted Appellees' motion.
The Florida Constitution affords a homestead exemption to every person
who has legal or equitable title to real estate on which he or she maintains a permanent
residence. Art. VII, § 6(a), Fla. Const. (1968). The implementing statutes provide, in
relevant part, as follows:
. . . .
(17) "Permanent resident" means a person who has
established a permanent residence as defined in subsection
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(18) "Permanent residence" means that place where a
person has his or her true, fixed, and permanent home and
principal establishment to which, whenever absent, he or
she has the intention of returning. A person may have only
one permanent residence at a time; and, once a permanent
residence is established in a foreign state or country, it is
presumed to continue until the person shows that a change
. . . .
196.015 Permanent residency; factual determination by
property appraiser.--Intention to establish a permanent
residence in this state is a factual determination to be made,
in the first instance, by the property appraiser. Although any
one factor is not conclusive of the establishment or
nonestablishment of permanent residence, the following are
relevant factors that may be considered by the property
appraiser in making his or her determination as to the intent
of a person claiming a homestead exemption to establish a
permanent residence in this state:
(1) Formal declarations of the applicant.
(2) Informal statements of the applicant.
(3) The place of employment of the applicant.
(4) The previous permanent residency by the applicant
in a state other than Florida or in another country and the
date non-Florida residency was terminated.
(5) The place where the applicant is registered to vote.
(6) The place of issuance of a driver's license to the
(7) The place of issuance of a license tag on any motor
vehicle owned by the applicant.
(8) The address as listed on federal income tax returns
filed by the applicant.
(9) The previous filing of Florida intangible tax returns by
The Homeowners argue that the property appraiser impermissibly
considered their immigration status in denying their application. We disagree. Section
196.015 does not contain an exhaustive list of relevant factors. Rather, it identifies
those factors that the property appraiser "may" consider in determining permanent
residency for homestead exemption purposes. Compare § 193.011 et seq., Fla. Stat.
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(2005) (listing factors appraiser "shall" consider in deriving just valuation). The form
used to apply for the homestead exemption is not inconsistent:
The forms shall require the taxpayer to furnish certain
information to the property appraiser for the purpose of
determining that the taxpayer is a permanent resident as
defined in s. 196.012(17). Such information may include, but
need not be limited to, the factors enumerated in s. 196.015.
§ 196.121(2) (emphasis added). Therefore, the property appraiser was entitled to
consider the Homeowners' immigration status in denying their application.
The property appraiser contends that without a permanent visa, the
Homeowners could not form the requisite intent to reside permanently on the property
for which they sought the homestead exemption. We must agree. The Florida
Administrative Code provided:
Homestead Exemptions – Residence Requirement.
(1) For one to make a certain parcel of land his permanent
home, he must reside thereon with a present intention of
living there indefinitely and with no present intention of
(2) A property owner who, in good faith, makes real property
in this state his permanent home is entitled to homestead tax
exemption, notwithstanding he is not a citizen of the United
States or of this State. (Smith v. Voight, 28 So. 2d 426 (Fla.
(3) A person in this country under a temporary visa cannot
meet the requirement of permanent residence or home and,
therefore, cannot claim homestead exemption.
Fla. Admin. Code R. 12D-7.007 (2002) (emphasis added).
In Juarrero v. McNayr, 157 So. 2d 79 (Fla. 1963), the supreme court held
that an alien residing in the United States with a temporary visa "does not have the legal
ability to determine for himself his future status and does not have the ability legally to
convert a temporary residence into a permanent home." Id. at 81. The court held that
Mr. Juarrero, a Cuban refugee seeking political asylum, could not legally, rightfully, and
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in good faith make his Florida residence his permanent home. Id. at 80; see also
Alcime v. Bystrom, 451 So. 2d 1037, 1037-38 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984) (holding alien without
permanent visa could not prove intention to become permanent resident for homestead
tax exemption purposes notwithstanding twenty years of U.S. residence, ten years of
Florida residence, and six years of local government employment); cf. Matter of Cooke,
412 So. 2d 340 (Fla. 1982) (relying on Juarrero and holding alien without permanent
visa could not be permanent Florida resident so as to protect home from judgment
creditors under homestead exemption from forced sale); Raheb v. DiBattisto, 513 So.
2d 717, 718 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987) (same).
Lisboa v. Dade County Property Appraiser, 705 So. 2d 704 (Fla. 3d DCA
1998), acknowledged Juarrero, but observed that "immigration policies of the United
States have changed considerably since Juarrero was decided [and that] Mr. Juarrero's
visa today would not be of a temporary nature." Id. at 707 (citing Dep't of Health &
Rehabilitative Servs. v. Solis, 580 So. 2d 146, 149 (Fla. 1991) ("[A]n asylum applicant is
present in the United States with no defined end or defined purpose as set out by
Congress regarding temporary aliens. The status of the . . . family will not change until
the family chooses to leave this country or INS acts on the application for asylum.")).
Rather, Mr. Juarrero's status would be that of one "permanently residing under color of
Under Lisboa, only a limited category of aliens--those with asylum
applications pending as of the relevant taxing date--satisfy the homestead residency
requirement without having obtained permanent resident status. Id. at 705-07 (citing 8
U.S.C. § 1101(a)(31) (stating that "permanent" means relationship of continuing or
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lasting nature as distinguished from temporary)); see also Opp. Atty. Gen. Fla. 2005-55
Although federal immigration policies may have changed, Juarrero has not
been overruled. The property appraiser argues correctly that, at most, Lisboa crafts a
limited exemption from Juarrero's general rule for those homestead exemption
applicants who are also seeking political asylum. Lisboa's narrow holding supports the
property appraiser's position:
The central question presented in this case is whether, as a
matter of Florida law, an applicant for political asylum whose
application is pending as of the relevant taxing date, is a
"permanent resident" for purposes of Florida's homestead
exemption from ad valorem taxation. Based upon our review
of Florida law, as well as the expert testimony presented
below on the current status of United States immigration law,
we answer this question in the affirmative.
Lisboa, 705 So. 2d at 706.
We sympathize with the Homeowners, who, apparently, have chosen to
make Charlotte County their home. But, because the homestead exemption provides
relief from an ad valorem tax, we must construe the statute strictly against them. See
Capital City Country Club, Inc. v. Tucker, 613 So. 2d 448, 452 (Fla. 1993) (citing axiom
that all tax exemptions are to be construed strictly). Based on our record, we are
compelled to abide by the applicable provisions of the Florida Administrative Code and
Juarrero, notwithstanding the limited exception, not applicable here, carved out by
Lisboa. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's final summary judgment.
STRINGER and SILBERMAN, JJ., Concur.