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Property Tax Fight Could Go to Fla. Supreme Court

If a homeowner rents out two bedrooms, can his homestead tax exemption be lowered 15%? Sarasota’s property appraiser lost that argument in court but plans an appeal.

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Sarasota County property appraiser has gone to the Florida Supreme Court in a dispute about whether a resident was entitled to a full homestead property-tax exemption if he rented two bedrooms to tenants.

Property Appraiser Bill Furst filed a notice last week – the first step in asking the Florida Supreme Court to take up the case, according to documents posted Tuesday on the court website.

The move came after a panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal in June rejected a decision by the property appraiser that homeowner Rod Rebholz was entitled to a homestead exemption on only 85 percent of the residence because bedrooms were rented out. Rebholz filed a lawsuit to challenge the property appraiser’s decision.

A Sarasota County circuit judge sided with Rebholz, and the appeals court, in a 2-1 ruling, agreed that the home should not be divided up for tax purposes.

“Based upon our analysis of the Florida Constitution, statutes and codes, we conclude that the property appraisers of this state are not authorized by law to carve up a homeowner's permanent residence in order to remove the protection provided by the constitutional homestead exemption when that person rents a bedroom or any other space within their home,” the majority opinion said.

As is common, the notice filed last week doesn’t detail the arguments Furst will make before the Supreme Court.

Source: News Service of Florida