APRIL 6, 2023 – The Florida Supreme Court has unanimously sided with Sarasota County Property Appraiser Bill Furst in a dispute regarding homestead property-tax exemption. Furst, who was represented by Icard Merrill Attorneys Jason Lessinger, Jeff Pflugner, Tony Manganiello, and Patrick Seidensticker, disputed whether Sarasota homeowner Rod Rebholz should have been receiving a full homestead exemption after renting several rooms to tenants.
A Sarasota County Circuit Court and the Second District Court of Appeal sided with the landlord in earlier rulings, but the Supreme Court on Thursday said the property was not eligible for a full homestead exemption.
At issue in this case was how to determine the scope of landlord’s residence for purpose of the homestead tax exemption. Rebholz lived on the bottom floor, and during the entire time period in question and rented a portion of the structure to at least one tenant. The county property appraiser concluded that at least 15% of the property was not being used as landlord’s residence and thus revoked the homestead exemption as to 15% of the total property. After he paid $7,000 in back taxes, penalties, and interest, Rebholz brought the action. The circuit court granted judgment for landlord, and the court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the decision, holding that the district court erred by concluding that, for purposes of applying the homestead tax exemption, the entire structure was Rebholz’s residence.