Is your property tax exemption legal?
Florida statutes are not very clear when it comes to describing who qualifies for homestead tax exemption status and Save Our Homes tax breaks.
To qualify, a person must intend for their Florida home to be their permanent residence on Jan. 1 of the tax year. There are now specific and clear requirements for how much 'space' that person must live in the home.
Beyond the initial residency requirement, what is considered an illegal homestead changes from one county to the next depending on how local property appraiser employees interpret the court cases and the state law.
Questionable practices include:
* Renting out a home you claim as a primary residence;
* Applying for homestead exemptions on more than one property;
* Putting one homesteaded property in a husband's name and another in a wife's name regardless of the state the home islocated in.
* A person loses their homestead status if they sell their home, give it away, place it in a trust or will it to relatives who aren't already listed as owners.
You are breaking the law if you claim a homestead illegally, but chances are you won't be prosecuted criminally. Instead, local county property appraisers typically place a severe lien on the property to collect the unpaid taxes, fees and interest. In addition to forcing repayment of any money saved, state law allows for a substantial tax penalty and enormous annual interest on the illegal savings amounts.
Also, the property appraiser's lein is an exception to the protections of the law and allows the county to foreclose on your home and sell it on the courthouse steps for failure to pay the tax lien. Also, when you lose your exemption, you also lose your 'Save Our Homes' status and your property taxes may also continue to increase in perpetuity.