Florida Supreme Court Confirms Constitutional Homestead Rights of Certain Homeowners

On October 4, 2012, the Florida Supreme Court clarified that even certain non-immigrants who own property in the State of Florida and whose families live permanently on this property may qualify for ad valorem tax relief (so-called homestead exemption). The Florida Supreme Court held that “the plain language of article VII, section 6(a), [of the Florida Constitution] permits every owner of Florida real property to apply for and receive ad valorem tax relief where it is sufficiently demonstrated that the owner has maintained on that property the permanent residence of another legally or naturally dependent on the owner.”

With this decision, the Florida Supreme Court also held a Florida statute partially unconstitutional which required the property owner himself to establish his legal ability to permanently reside on his property in order to qualify for the homestead exemption.

In the case at hand, Honduran husband and wife E-2 visa holders who owned a residence on Key Biscayne and lived there with their three US citizen children had applied for homestead exemption based on the fact that their children were residing with their parents in this residence. The Miami-Dade Property Appraiser had denied the taxpayers’ application for homestead exemption with the reasoning that the taxpayers themselves had failed to prove that their were legally able to live on the property permanently, since E-2 visas are non-immigrant visas. That decision had been overturned by the Miami-Dade Value Adjustment Board, and the Circuit Court as well as the District Court of Appeal later affirmed that the the taxpayers were indeed entitled to homestead exemption based on the evidence of their children’s permanent residence in this home. The Florida Supreme Court has now finally affirmed this decision. Please see the text of the full decision here.

This case is not limited to E-2 visa holders; in fact it really has nothing to do with the immigration or visa status of the homeowner so long as a legal dependent lives on the property who has the legal ability to make it his or her permanent home. Therefore, children who hold legal permanent residence or US citizenship can thus qualify their parents’ homes in Florida for homestead exemption.

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