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RE Q&A: Why Pay a ‘Tourist Tax’ After Home Damage?

Many property insurance policies pay for hotel stays if covered damage makes a home unlivable – so why do hotels make these Floridians pay a “tourist tax”?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: My home was severely damaged about eight months ago due to water damage, and I have been living in a hotel suite since then. I recently noticed that the hotel is charging me for the tourist tax. I am not a tourist. Why do I have to pay this? – Oliver

Answer: In Florida, along with most states, short term, or “transient,” rentals of less than six months are taxed. In addition to this state tax, counties can add a “tourist development tax” and other types of local taxes to raise the rate further. The property owner is responsible for collecting and remitting the funds to the revenue collector. Failing to do so can result in significant penalties.

Written leases longer than six months are exempt from this tax. If you do not have a written lease but stay in the same unit for more than six months, you will not be subject to that tax beginning with the seventh month. This tax applies to locals as well as tourists, although students and active-duty military are usually exempt.

Since you do not have a long-term written lease with the hotel, you were obligated to pay the taxes for the first six months you live in the suite. However, beginning with the seventh month, your landlord should have stopped collecting these taxes. Your landlord is required to submit the taxes, along with a tax return, monthly.

Your first step is to speak to the manager and ask for the return of any amounts that were collected but not yet sent to the revenue collector. For funds already sent in, you will need to contact both your county and state’s revenue office to see whether you can get a refund.

On a side note, most homeowner’s insurance policies cover some of your living expenses when you cannot use your home. So if you have not already done so, make sure to check your policy to see if you can make a claim for reimbursement.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation.

© 2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.