I recently learned an interesting thing about Florida law. In Section 196.061 of the Florida Statutes, it say that when property is owned and used as a homestead by a person serving in the Armed Forces, the servicemember may rent the homestead property without abandoning the claim to the homestead exemption.
In order to use this provision, the military member must:
- Live in Florida, and
- Receive a homestead exemption on his or her property taxes, and
- Receive Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders to move from Florida the property, and
- BEFORE executing the PCS move, file to maintain the exemption, and
- Maintain his or her Florida residency, including driver's licenses, and
- Complete and return annual affidavits verifying his or her military status.
Specific details can be found on each individual county's website. Each county explains the homestead in a slightly different way, but they all mean the same thing. You can do an internet search on "active duty military homestead exemption" and name of county. Once you've located the appropriate office to help you, then you can file the appropriate paperwork through this office.
If you aren't able to file the exemption in person because of your military service, Section 106.072 of the Florida Statues permit you to authorize, in writing, a family member or other designated person to do the appropriate paperwork on your behalf.
This law has very specific details of how and when you must submit certain paperwork in order to qualify for this continued homestead exemption. Be sure to start the process before, or as soon as, you have PCS orders to leave the area of your property.
It is very important to understand that claiming a homestead exemption indicates that this is your primary residence and that you do not have other primary residences. If you are claiming a homestead exemption for one property, you should not be claiming a homestead exemption on another property elsewhere. While this is a general rule, Florida Statute 196.031 specifically prohibits a person from claiming a Florida homestead exemption if they claim a homestead exemption on any other property in any location.