The Second District Court of Appeal has recently ruled on the Pasco County Wells v. Haldeos case, challenging the idea that married couples can never have separate homestead exemptions. The court decided that under specific circumstances, where the husband and wife have genuinely established two separate permanent residences and do not share financial ties or benefits, they can each be eligible for a homestead exemption if they meet the other requirements.

Jointly-Owned Property and Homestead Exemptions

Can someone receive a homestead exemption on their Florida property if they or their spouse already benefit from a similar exemption on a jointly-owned property in another state? The answer is no. According to Fla. Stat. 196.031(6), if a person receives an ad valorem tax exemption in another state based on permanent residency, they are not entitled to a Florida homestead exemption. So, if your spouse has a residency-based tax exemption or credit in another state, and your name is on that property, you will likely be denied a homestead exemption in Florida.

But what if your name isn’t on your spouse’s out-of-state property? This situation is more complicated. Some counties might still deny you a Florida homestead exemption, arguing that you indirectly benefit from your spouse’s exemption. In other counties, you might have a chance, but you still need to consider the “family unit” provision of the Florida Constitution.

The “One Exemption Per Family Unit” Rule

Since 1968, the Florida Constitution has stated that only one homestead exemption is allowed per individual or family unit. The original proposal was to limit the exemption to one per individual or married couple, but the final version uses the term “family unit.” This has led to speculation about what constitutes a family unit. Although no appellate courts have addressed this issue, the Attorney General’s office and several Florida trial courts have provided some guidance on whether and when a married couple can claim separate homestead exemptions.

Guidance from the Attorney General

In response to inquiries from Florida Property Appraisers, the Attorney General has issued advisory opinions, which, while not binding, carry some weight. Opinions 075-146 and 2005-60 suggest that a husband and wife can establish separate family units and receive separate homestead exemptions. The Attorney General indicated that financial interdependence is a key factor; if one spouse maintains the home of the other, they likely wouldn’t be considered separate family units.

Insights from Trial Courts

Though no appellate courts have ruled on this matter, several trial courts have. In Pasco County, a judge disagreed with the Property Appraiser’s claim that a married couple automatically forms a single family unit entitled to only one exemption. The judge generally followed the Attorney General’s advice, finding that the couple did not constitute a single family unit because one did not maintain the home of the other.

In Sarasota County, a judge considered a case where a married couple owned and lived in separate units within the same condominium. The judge ruled they weren’t entitled to separate exemptions, stating that the couple would need to file for a dissolution of marriage and clearly show an end to their family relationship.

Similarly, in Hillsborough County, a judge found that a couple was not entitled to separate exemptions because their finances were substantially mingled, they were married, and they functioned as a family.


Married couples are not allowed to receive dual homestead exemptions on jointly-owned properties. For properties that are not jointly owned, they still need to overcome the constitutional limitation of “one exemption per family unit.” There is no binding authority on whether and when a married couple can be treated as two separate family units eligible for two separate exemptions. The Attorney General emphasizes financial independence, but courts also consider the relationship status. In practice, some Property Appraisers deny dual exemptions to all married couples, while others investigate the couple’s finances and living arrangements. The penalties for improperly receiving an extra exemption are severe, so couples considering this should be honest with the Property Appraiser about their status and seek legal counsel.

For more personalized legal assistance, contact Gabriel Jose Carrera at 954-533-7593 or email [email protected].

In Florida, property appraisers are required to notify homeowners by July 1st if their homestead exemption application has been denied. This notice can come as an unwelcome surprise. Here, we’ll explore common reasons for a homestead exemption denial and the steps you can take to appeal.

Why Was My Homestead Exemption Application Denied?

The most common reason for a homestead exemption application being denied is missing the statutory filing deadline. According to Florida Statute 196.011, applications must be filed by March 1st of the tax year for which the exemption is sought. If you miss this deadline, you generally forfeit the exemption for that year. However, if you can demonstrate extenuating circumstances, the property appraiser might still grant the exemption. If not, you would need to appeal to the Value Adjustment Board (VAB).

If your application was timely, the denial might be due to not meeting the homestead exemption requirements. For example, the property appraiser might determine that you don’t have the necessary interest in the property or that it wasn’t your permanent residence as of January 1st. For more details on the requirements, see my blog post on Qualifying for a Florida Homestead Exemption.

Notice of Denial

When a property appraiser decides to deny a homestead exemption application, they must send out a notice by July 1st, either hand-delivered or via registered mail to the address provided by the applicant (see Fla. Stat. 196.151). Since 2009, Florida Statute 196.193(5)(b) mandates that these notices include specific legal and factual reasons for the denial, written clearly enough for a reasonable person to understand. A notice that doesn’t meet these criteria is void. However, some counties argue that this statute doesn’t apply to homestead exemptions, an issue that remains unresolved by the courts.

Appealing to the Value Adjustment Board (VAB)

To appeal a homestead exemption denial, you can file a petition with the county VAB. Petitions must be submitted to the Clerk of the VAB (usually located in the Clerk of Court’s office) within 30 days of the notice of denial being mailed (see Fla. Stat. 194.011(3)(d)). In smaller counties, the full VAB hears the petition, while in larger counties, it is initially heard by a Special Magistrate, whose recommendation is then reviewed by the full VAB. If you don’t prevail at the VAB, you can appeal to the circuit court within 15 days of the VAB’s decision.

Appealing Directly to the Circuit Court

You also have the option to bypass the VAB and take your case directly to circuit court. This must be done within 60 days of the tax roll certification by the property appraiser. To file a circuit court action, you must pay your taxes in full or at least the amount you acknowledge as owing. Failure to pay can result in the dismissal of your case due to lack of jurisdiction (see Fla. Stat. 194.171).

Liens for Back Taxes

If you were receiving a homestead exemption but the property appraiser later determines you were ineligible, you must repay the back taxes with a 50% penalty and 15% interest (see Fla. Stat. 196.161). If you don’t pay within 30 days of receiving notice, the property appraiser can place a tax lien on all your property in the state. Retroactive removal of a homestead exemption can be very costly. Since it is unclear whether these issues can be brought before the VAB or must be handled in circuit court, consulting an attorney is highly advisable.

Need Help?

Navigating the appeal process for a homestead exemption denial can be complex. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t hesitate to contact me, Attorney Gabriel Jose Carrera, at 954-533-7593 or via email at [email protected]. I can provide the legal guidance you need to ensure your appeal is handled properly.

Save Our Homes Assessment Limitation

After the first year a home receives a homestead exemption and the property appraiser assesses it at just value, the assessment for each following year cannot increase more than 3 percent or the percent change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less. This limitation is known as the “Save Our Homes” (SOH) assessment limitation. The accumulated difference between the assessed value and the just (market) value is the SOH benefit. (See section 193.155, Florida Statutes)

Even if the value of your home decreases, the assessed value may increase, but only by this limited amount. The assessed value will never be more than the just value of your home.

Save Our Homes Portability Transfer

If you are moving from a previous Florida homestead to a new homestead in Florida, you may be able to transfer, or “port,” all or part of your homestead assessment difference. If you are eligible, portability allows most Florida homestead owners to transfer their SOH benefit from their old homestead to a new homestead, lowering the tax assessment and, consequently, the taxes for the new homestead.

To transfer the SOH benefit, you must establish a homestead exemption for the new home within three years of January 1 of the year you abandoned the old homestead (not three years after the sale). You must file the Transfer of Homestead Assessment Difference (Form DR-501T) with the homestead exemption application. The deadline to file these forms is March 1.

Complete all forms and applications required for the exemption and file them with your county property appraiser. If the property appraiser denies your application, you may file a petition with the county’s value adjustment board. For more information, see Petitions to the Value Adjustment Board.

Change or Transfer of Ownership

If a change in ownership occurs for a homestead property protected by the SOH cap, the property will lose the SOH benefit and will be subject to assessment at just value on the following January 1. Florida law defines a change of ownership as any sale, foreclosure, or transfer of legal title or beneficial title in equity to any person. (See s. 193.155(3), F.S.)

Additionally, a loss or removal of homestead will trigger a reassessment and removal of the SOH benefit. To avoid any penalties, please notify your county property appraiser if your homestead status has changed.

Some changes that will not trigger a reassessment include:

  • A change or transfer between spouses
  • Certain transfers upon death
  • Certain transfers when the same persons are entitled to the homestead exemption both before and after the transfer

For all exceptions, see s. 193.155, F.S.


Understanding the Save Our Homes assessment limitation and the portability transfer is crucial for Florida homeowners. These provisions can significantly impact your property tax liability and provide substantial savings. It’s important to follow the correct procedures and timelines to take full advantage of these benefits. If you have any questions or need assistance with your homestead exemption, please contact me, Attorney Gabriel Jose Carrera, at 954-533-7593

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For specific legal concerns, consult attorney Gabriel J. Carrera to evaluate your specific circumstances.

As an attorney practicing in the state of Florida, it is essential to comprehend the requirements and legal precedents surrounding the homestead exemption. This exemption is a crucial aspect of Florida’s property tax law, designed to protect homeowners and provide significant tax relief. Recently, an advisory opinion issued by the Florida Attorney General clarified some key points regarding these requirements.

Key Requirements for Homestead Exemption

Under Article VII, section 6 of the Florida Constitution, and section 196.031 of the Florida Statutes, a taxpayer must fulfill specific criteria to qualify for the homestead exemption. Notably, the taxpayer must:

  1. Possess legal or equitable title to the property.
  2. Reside on the property.
  3. Intend to make the property their permanent residence.

Clarifying Physical Occupancy

A critical question often arises: Must a taxpayer physically occupy the property on January 1 of the relevant tax year to qualify for the homestead exemption? According to AGO 97-19, the opinion issued by Attorney General Robert A. Butterworth, the answer is no.

While physical presence on January 1 is a common interpretation, Florida courts have established that “residence” and “physical presence” are not synonymous. Instead, the courts look at the taxpayer’s intent and other supporting factors to determine residence. For instance, in the case of Crain v. Putnam, the court granted a homestead exemption to a homeowner who had been placed in a nursing home and was not physically present on the property. The court emphasized that the owner’s belongings, mail delivery, and overall intent to return to the home were sufficient indicators of residence.

Implementing the Homestead Exemption

Section 196.031, Florida Statutes, outlines the specific conditions under which a taxpayer can claim the homestead exemption. This statute states:

“Every person who, on January 1, has the legal title or beneficial title in equity to real property in this state and who resides thereon and in good faith makes the same his or her permanent residence… is entitled to an exemption from all taxation, except for assessments for special benefits, up to the assessed valuation of [$25,000] on the residence and contiguous real property…”

Additionally, Rule 12D-7.007 of the Florida Administrative Code provides further guidance on what constitutes making a property one’s permanent home. This rule underscores the importance of the taxpayer’s intention to live on the property indefinitely and without plans to move.

Determining Permanent Residency

The determination of whether a property is a taxpayer’s permanent residence is made by the property appraiser, considering various factors set forth in section 196.015, Florida Statutes. These factors include, but are not limited to, the taxpayer’s driver’s license address, voter registration, mailing address, and the location of the taxpayer’s family.

Legal Precedents and Considerations

Several legal precedents support the interpretation that physical presence is not an absolute requirement for the homestead exemption:

  • Green v. Pederson (99 So. 2d 292): Emphasizes the need for clear compliance with the exemption requirements.
  • Crain v. Putnam (22 Fla. L. Weekly D287): Highlights the consideration of intent and other factors over physical presence.
  • Horne v. Markham (288 So. 2d 196): Asserts that the homestead exemption must be interpreted in the “liberal and beneficent spirit” to protect family homes.


Understanding the nuances of Florida’s homestead exemption is vital for any property owner or legal professional in the state. While physical occupancy on January 1 is not strictly required, demonstrating the intent to reside permanently on the property and meeting other statutory requirements are essential. As legal professionals, we must guide our clients through these intricacies to ensure they benefit fully from the homestead exemption.

For further guidance, refer to the following legal references:

  1. Green v. Pederson, 99 So. 2d 292 (Fla. 1957).
  2. United States Gypsum Company v. Green, 110 So. 2d 409 (Fla. 1959).
  3. Straughn v. Camp, 293 So. 2d 689 (Fla. 1974).
  4. State v. Thompson, 101 So. 2d 381 (Fla. 1958).
  5. Lake Garfield Nurseries Company v. White, 149 So. 2d 576 (Fla. 2d DCA 1963).
  6. Crain v. Putnam, 22 Fla. L. Weekly D287 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997).

For any questions or further discussion, feel free to reach out to me, Attorney Gabriel Jose Carrera, at 954-533-7593 for a legal consultation.