Q: I have been penalized for homestead exemption abuse because I did not move my homestead. Is there any relief I can seek?
I purchased a small townhouse in 2012 and made it my homestead. I later purchased a home but I kept the townhouse and rented it. I sold the home and purchased another and then another. Each time I moved into the home and lived there from 1 to 4 years. The mistake I made was never canceling and reestablishing my homestead. The county does not require the homestead to be renewed each year. Now the County has penalized me the amount of the homestead exemption and the save our homes credit on the town house plus 50% penalty and 15% interest per year (10% of the entire value of the town house). If I had transferred the exemption each time, I would have actually paid less taxes but I was ignorant and had other things on my mind. The property appraisers office says the the law does not allow them to move the exemption after the fact and there is nothing they can do. I know I was wrong, but the penalty here seems excessive since did not receive any more exemption than I was entitled.
A: Unfortunately, ignorance is not an excuse to the law. You were rightfully tagged for your mistake. I have been through this before with clients and, indeed the ignorance argument is always used and always loses. You have no choice but to pay up and file homestead (hopefully with portability) on your present house.
Bruce Alexander Minnick agrees with this answer
A: The law governing Florida's attractive homestead exemption has been clear for decades: Only one to a customer--at a time. The law is also very clear about rental property NOT being qualified for the exemption. Unfortunately--also for decades--way too many property owners ignore the law and try to claim homestead exemptions on multiple properties and even on rental property--thereby cheating the counties where the property is located out of millions of desperately needed local tax dollars.
However, your are correct about one thing: Counties do not require homestead exemptions to be refiled every year; but they do send out annual notices to EVERY residential property owner clearly warning all property owners not to try to cheat the system.
And--as you might also want to know--every passing year most Florida counties upgrade their electronic databases and systems, creating more sophisticated electronic ways to compare owners of all residential property with the database--and catch people like you very easily.
Finally: FYI, Florida is also well on the way to being able to check the databases of residential property owners living in most other (automated) states and can find cheaters who do not really live in Florida enough of the year to qualify for homestead here.
Seril L Grossfeld agrees with this answer
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