Sarasota dispute over homestead exemption goes to state Supreme Court

Sarasota County Government
Sarasota County Government
Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 3:43 PM EST
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The Florida Supreme Court on Friday said it will take up a dispute about whether a Sarasota homeowner is entitled to a full homestead property-tax exemption after renting several rooms to tenants.

Sarasota County Property Appraiser Bill Furst is disputing a Sarasota County Circuit Court ruling that said resident Rod Rebholz was eligible for a full homestead exemption even though he remodeled the home in 1996 and has rented out several rooms to tenants.

According to court documents, in 2014, Furst applied an administrative code rule that allows a property appraiser to estimate, in Rebholz’s case, that 15% of the home -- the rented portion -- is a place of business, and therefore Rebholz was only eligible for 85% of the exemption.

Furst adjusted the assessed value and recorded a $7,000 tax lien for the years he had collected the full exemption.

Rebholz sued in response, claiming the lien was unlawful. At trial, the court determined Rebholz was entitled to the homestead tax exemption on the entire property, because he had not rented out “all or substantially all of his dwelling.”

Furst appealed the decision, but the Second District Court of Appeals again sided with Rebholz, saying the administrative code rule was unconstitutional and agreed with the lower court that the home should not be divided up for tax purposes.

In his petition to the Florida Supreme Court, Furst says the appeals court has opened the door for property owners to claim homestead exemption on commercial property.

“The mischief will only continue to increase as more home-based businesses and short term on-line rental services provide easy ways for homeowners to utilize portions of their primary residences for profit-making endeavors,” the petition says. “The Opinion makes it impossible for property appraisers to properly apportion real property between its commercial use and noncommercial use for purposes of the homestead tax exemption.”

No date for oral arguments has been set.

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