March 1 is the deadline for making application for the homestead exemption. Obtaining homestead exemption is important to the homeowner in two ways. First, homestead exemption reduces the assessable value of property by $25,000. Second, persons who properly file for homestead exemption receive the benefit of Article VII of the Florida Constitution, which limits increases in ad valorem assessments to the lower of 3% or the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers, U.S. City Average. The Property Appraiser is entitled to increase the value of property to reflect additions or improvements to the property.
“Homestead” refers to the primary residence of an individual. A business entity is not eligible to receive homestead protection. In order to be eligible for the exemption a person must be a permanent Florida resident, hold title or a beneficial interest in the property, and must own and occupy the property as a permanent residence. A non U.S. citizen who is a resident alien may be eligible for homestead exemption. The Property Appraiser’s Office advises that a temporary visa card accompanied by official assurance that permanent residence status has been approved will be acceptable documentation.
Some individuals hold title to homestead property in their revocable trusts. Application for homestead exemption may still be granted for property held in trust if the Florida resident can provide appropriate proof that he holds the requisite beneficial interest in the property and occupies the home as a primary residence. The state of Florida has homestead laws that are unique to this state which should be considered before placing homestead property in trust. Therefore, it is advisable to talk with a knowledgeable estate planner before taking title to homestead property in trust.
In Sarasota County the Property Appraiser has offices located at 2001 Adams Lane in Sarasota near the Courthouse, and 4000 S. Tamiami Trail in Venice. In Manatee County the Property Appraiser’s office is located at 915 4th Avenue West. Application must be made in person. An applicant must show proof of residency as of January 1, and therefore a copy of the recorded deed for the property should be provided. Documents that would help show residency include a Florida driver’s license, voter card, vehicle registration, and declaration of domicile. Other types of documents may be accepted. If you should have a question call 861-8200 in Sarasota or 748-8208 in Manatee County.
Once an application has been filed, it is not necessary to file an application of homestead each year if the use and ownership of property does not change. The homestead exemption stays with the property throughout the hear and continues while the individual owns and occupies the home as a permanent resident. Upon the purchase of a new residence, a new application for homestead must be filed for the property.