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It’s unlikely couple can maintain two homesteads in two different states

By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law | Apr 15, 2021

Eric Feichthaler

Dear Mr. Feichthaler:

Several years ago I bought my house in Cape Coral and closed at a title company locally. I asked them if I could keep my homestead in Ohio and also apply in Florida, and they said “sure, why not?” Well, 6 years later, the Lee County Property Appraiser has contacted me and advised I owe A LOT of money. Can I avoid paying this 5 figure sum, which I don’t have the ability to pay?

— Kevin N.

Dear Kevin:

I am sorry you received this surprise from the property appraiser. First off, legal advice should not be relied upon unless an attorney is providing the advice. Florida law prohibits non-lawyers from giving legal advice, but, like your case, it does happen frequently.

In this case, the information you re-ceived from the title company was incorrect. Except in extremely limited circumstances, a married couple cannot maintain two homesteads in two different states (or in Florida, for that matter). By having a Florida homestead, you not only receive the $50,000 reduction in taxable value, but the increases annually are capped at 3% or less. By losing both of these over 6 years, I can see why the amounts could be over $10,000. Plus, the property appraiser will assess interest and penalties on the underpayments, further compounding your expenses.

There may be hope in your situation. If you can show that you rescinded your principal residence exemption in Ohio AND paid any deficiency payable to the Ohio county tax collector that resulted, Lee County may agree to leave the exemption, and not change the “Save Our Homes” cap that has been likely saving you significant money. Just be sure to provide the information requested by Lee County, including proof from Ohio of the rescission and payment, and to follow up with Lee County to be sure they received everything they need.

Not getting this resolved quickly could lead to a lien on your property, as well as additional interest charges accruing.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for over 33 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continues his service to the community through the Cape Coral Caring Center, Cape Coral Historical Museum, and Cape Coral Kiwanis. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for over 20 years, and they have four children together. He earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is AV Preeminent rated by Martindale-Hubbell for professional ethics and legal ability, and is a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

Mr. Feichthaler can be reached at eric@capecoralattorney.com, or (239) 542-4733.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.