Understanding Florida’s Homestead Exemption Requirements

Understanding Florida's Homestead Exemption Requirements

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.