The Docket April 2020 - Page 13

R E A L E S TAT E L AW Florida’s homestead exemption: What you don’t know will hurt you By AMANDA KISON, Esq. Bentley & Bruning S B514 and its companion bill CS/HB 223 died in the Florida Senate in February. These bills, although far from perfect, were intended to correct a glitch in Florida’s homestead exemption statutes, §§196.031(5), Fla. Stat. and 196.161(1)(b), Fla. Stat., which resulted in egregious and punitive fines being assessed against Sarasota County residents, as well as Florida residents across the state. The backdrop is this: almost twenty years ago, the Second DCA, in Wells v. Vallier, 773 So. 2d 1197 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000), reviewed a trial court’s determination that a homeowner, who was overwhelmingly shown to be permanent resident of Florida, was entitled to receive a Florida homestead credit despite simultaneously receiving a $100 LEGAL AID Continued from Page 9 ways you can get involved! Here are just a few of our current programs: n Medical Legal Partnership – We partner with Sarasota Memorial Hospital Internal Medicine Prac- tice-Newtown. One of our staff attorneys goes to the medical office weekly to meet with patients whose legal issues have negatively impacted their health. These clients have health-harming legal needs and could use a pro bono attorney to help resolve these issues. n Veterans – We have several programs that assist veterans. We partner with Jewish Family & Chil- dren’s Services and their Operation Military Assistance Program to assist veterans who are homeless or in imminent danger of becoming homeless. We are also working with United Way’s Mission United program which will be a resource for veterans in all areas: Housing, Education, Health, Employment, Financial Stability, and, of course, Legal Assis- tance. This is another area of great need and we will be placing the veteran’s legal cases with pro bono attorneys. Amanda Kison, Esq. Bentley & Bruning. per year residency-based tax credit in another state. In affirming the trial court’s ruling, the Second DCA concluded that while a property owner’s receipt of a residency-based property tax credit in another state may be a factor in determining permanent residency, it alone is not conclusive.  In response to Wells, the Legislature sought to prevent a property owner from claiming a homestead exemption in Florida while simultaneously receiving a residency-based tax credit in another state. The result was an amendment to §196.031, Fla. Stat., which states in pertinent part: A person who is receiving or claiming the benefit of an ad valorem tax exemption or a tax credit in another state where permanent residency is required as a basis for the granting of that ad valorem tax exemption or n We also collaborate with Habi- tat for Humanity in Manatee and Sarasota by speaking to their new homeowners about the need for estate planning documents and we provide pro bono attorneys to draft Wills and Advance Directives for their homeowners. n One of our newest programs is the Legal Lifeline for Youth Proj- ect, in partnership with the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, providing legal representation for youth, ages 14 and up, who have been adjudicated dependent and are in Foster Care or Independent Living. We still have a need for pro bono attorneys in this program to assist with the non-Dependency legal issues these kids may have. n We have a program specifically geared towards seniors, the SHOPP program (Senior Home Owner- ship Preservation Program) which provides legal assistance to seniors who may be in danger of losing their homes. n We also have a Wills Project which provides attorney assistance to prepare Wills and Advance Direc- tives to seniors or those who are terminally ill. n We give free legal educational programs to the public, at the library “Thank you for your legal aid services. My attorney helped me so much — he saved my home out of foreclo- sure. He set my mind at ease and was always there for me.” “My attorney has become my knight in shining armor.” —Legal Aid clients tax credit is not entitled to the homestead exemption provided by this section. See Section 196.031(5), Fla. Stat. For individuals claiming a homestead exemption who are not permanent residents of Florida, §196.161(1)(b) empowers a Property Appraiser to impose a tax lien on the exempted property for back taxes exempted going back 10 years, plus interest, in addition to a 50% penalty. Unfortunately, the unintended consequence of §§196.031(5) and 196.161(1)(b) is that permanent residents of Florida, who are legitimately entitled to and are receiving the Florida homestead exemption, are being stripped of their homestead exemption, assessed back taxes, penalties and interest, and losing their Save Our Homes cap as a result of receiving See HOMESTEAD , Page 18 and at other locations as requested. n Divorce Workshop and Docu- ment Review – the numbers of clients who need assistance with family law issues is staggering. To try to alle- viate that need, we hold a Divorce Workshop on a monthly basis at the Selby Library to assist clients in filing pro se. We also provide document reviews to those clients who have additional questions about how to properly fill out the family law forms. n Domestic Violence Injunctions – we provide pro bono attorneys to victims of domestic violence in collaboration with SPARCC and HOPE Family Services. I n addition to the projects listed above there are many other types of cases that we provide assistance with including: Guardianships, Landlord/Tenant, Debt Collection, and Bankruptcy to name a few. If you have any questions about any of these programs or would like to discuss how you could help, please contact me anytime. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have: Pam Fields, Esq. or 941-366-0038 x101 The Docket · April 2020 13