By: Bill Furst, Sarasota County Property Appraiser
I can’t count the number of times a distraught property owner contacts this office because the homestead is “missing.” There are many statutory reasons for that but the most common is that otherwise qualified property owners never applied and, what should be most distressing to you, they often give these reasons why:
- My real estate agent never told me I had to apply!
- My real estate agent told me I had to live in the property for a year before I could apply!
Are they shifting responsibility rather than admitting they dropped the ball? Probably. Are they going to repeat that to friends and family? Probably. Why not neutralize those negative comments and seize this chance to give your buyers the facts about homestead and portability in advance of the statutory deadlines? Alerting your customers to the possibility of hundreds or thousands of dollars in property tax savings should earn you customers for life!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The homestead exemption is not automatically applied to a property! It’s a privilege for which property owners must qualify and apply. Property owners may apply for homestead and personal exemptions for the following tax year at any time after they acquire their new residence.
The exemption qualification deadline is January 1, meaning a person must own and occupy the property as their permanent residence and be a legal resident of the State of Florida on January 1 of the year for which they are applying. They must also meet the qualification requirements for any personal exemptions by that date. If they’re moving from out of-state, they must provide proof that no property tax exemptions or credits remain on any real property they still own.
The exemption application filing deadline is March 1. Failure to file constitutes a waiver of the privilege of the exemption for that year. This deadline applies to the following:
- New applications for homestead and personal exemptions such as widow/widower, blind, disability, and a service-connected disability.
- Applications for personal exemptions added to an existing homestead exemption.
- New applications for the Income Qualified Senior exemption. The income limit is set annually by the State of Florida and will be published on our website at the end of January. Existing beneficiaries will be mailed renewal materials in late January.
- New applications for the Combat-Related Disability discount for veterans 65 and older. Forms for renewing applicants will be mailed in January.
- Non-service connected, income-qualified, 100% disability exemption. The income limit is set annually by the state of Florida and will be published on our website at the end of January. Income reporting forms will be mailed to renewing applicants.
Portability, (in legalese a Transfer of Homestead Assessment Difference), grants added tax relief to Florida property owners. Portability means a qualified applicant can transfer some, or all, of their Save Our Homes sheltered value from their previous homestead to their new homestead. Florida statutes were recently amended to allow property owners three tax years to transfer that sheltered value. Portability is dependent on the receipt of a homestead exemption – without a timely filed and approved homestead application, there will be no portability benefit for your customers.
Take this opportunity to reach out to your 2021 buyers to remind them to apply. They file online at, www.sc-pa.com, or visit our offices, or call us for more information. Together, let’s ensure that every qualified person receives these valuable property tax benefits.