Homestead Exemptions & HOA Parcels Or Condominiums
One of the most attractive things about Florida for many who chose to move to the state is its homestead property exemption. A person’s homestead can be exempt from property taxes up to a certain amount, depending on the value of the property. It is also protected from foreclosure or other adverse action from creditors in most situations – including when community associations might attempt to foreclose due to unpaid assessments. The interplay of community associations and homestead law can be complex.
Florida’s Homestead Exemption Is Generous
Florida’s homestead laws are among the most expansive in the United States, allowing one to claim a significant geographical area as a homestead, with no upper limit on its value. What this means is that regardless of the monetary value of the property, judgment creditors (those looking to force a sale of the real property in order to satisfy an obligation or debt) cannot touch anything on the homestead property. For example, if you designate the parcel where your home is located as your homestead, any improvements you make to the property will be protected as well as the home itself.
That said, the same law which creates the homestead exemption does leave several loopholes which can allow some creditors to still make claims. Homestead property is generally not exempt from mortgages, tax liens, or – perhaps most importantly for those who live in community associations – assessment liens. Assessment liens occur when a homeowner or condo owner refuse to pay the assessments they owe – as a method of collection, community associations are legally permitted to file liens against the owner’s property to try and force payment.
Right To Establish Assessment Liens
Not only does Florida law not protect homestead property from assessment liens, it also specifically establishes that an association’s right to impose assessment liens is established from the moment the HOA or condo association is created – thus, before any owner has designated their home or condo as their homestead. That said, not every debt that one might owe to a community association counts as a delinquent assessment – only assessments may be considered grounds for foreclosure, so if an association tries to push the envelope with a fee that does not qualify, you will likely prevail.
One important thing to keep in mind specifically regarding homeowners’ associations is that Florida law states that only fines of more than $1,000 may be used as grounds to establish an assessment lien. In practice, what this often means is that HOAs will simply try and adopt resolutions setting fines and assessments over $1,000 – but case law insinuates that courts may look unfavorably on associations that try to surreptitiously raise fine amounts for the sole purpose of entrapping association members in unexpected liens.
Contact A Tampa Community Association Attorney
If you want to designate your home or your condo as your homestead under Florida’s law, you are generally able to do that. However, it is crucial to not make the mistake of thinking that doing so insulates that property from all forms of judgment. If you have questions about homestead exemptions or community associations’ relations with them, Tampa HOA & condo association attorney Alicia Seward and the Seward Law Office are ready and willing to try and assist you. Contact our offices today via our website, or on the phone at 813-252-6789.