A client wanted to know if his condominium qualified as Florida homestead in an action to terminate a condominium association. Under a Florida condominium statute an owner who resides in a condo unit as his homestead has rights to increased compensation. My client does not reside in the condo unit, nor does he reside in Florida. The question was whether he would still be entitled to homestead benefits under this statute.
The client lived in North Dakota in a house he owns. He did not file for homestead benefits in North Dakota. His ex-wife and his adult son reside in the Florida condo. My client financially supports his son. The client has not filed for Florida homestead tax exemption through 2015.
Florida homestead law does not required that the owner reside in the homestead property if a dependant member of the owner’s family, such as a spouse or child, permanent resides in the property. There is no requirement that the owner reside in Florida under those circumstances. I think the client is entitled to claim the Florida condominium as a homestead inasmuch as he has not claimed any other real property, in Florida or elsewhere, as his homestead. The client says he has not claimed the Florida condominium as his homestead for tax purposes.
I suggested to the client that the answer to this question probably is found within the condominium statute, and that he should consult with an attorney who is familiar with the statute. For my own curiosity about this issue, I looked up the termination statute to better understand the benefits affording owners of homesteaded condominiums. I found that an owner must have claimed the homestead tax exemption prior to the recording of the plan of termination to receive the benefits afforded to homestead owners. In this instance, qualifying a homestead for asset protection without the tax application is not sufficient to warrant homestead benefits. This is another example where the homestead law depends upon the purpose for which homestead is asserted and upon the relevant statutory or constitutional basis for homestead benefits.