Real Estate FAQs

How do I declare my property as Homestead for tax purposes?

To declare your property as Homestead for tax purposes, bring the following documents to the Property Appraiser's office no later than March 1st of the year for which the exemption is to be effective.

  • A recorded deed or tax bill in your name
  • Florida driver's license
  • Florida auto tag registration
  • If you are a registered voter in Collier County, a voter registration card
  • Social Security numbers for applicant and spouse, if applicable
  • A Declaration of Domicile filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court, if there is one recorded
  • Documentation from out of state assessor or property appraiser that any residency based exemptions on prior out of state property has been removed
  • If the proposed Homestead property is held in a trust, a copy of the trust must be submitted for review and qualification
  • An applicant who is not a U.S. Citizen must present a resident alien card (green card)

All documentation must be dated prior to January 1st of the tax year for which you are applying for the exemption.

Note: The Homestead exemption does not automatically transfer. A new application must be filed if you move within Collier County.

See the Collier County Property Appraiser's website for more information:

What are the benefits of declaring my property as Homestead?

There are several benefits to declaring your property as Homestead. The most well-known benefit is that Homestead property is entitled to a reduction of up to $50,000 from the assessed value of the dwelling and there is a 3% cap on assessed value increases. Each year following the effective date of the Homestead Exemption, the assessed value increase on Homestead Property cannot exceed 3% or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less. Additionally, Homestead Property is protected from forced sale by creditors (except for several special circumstances—e.g. a voluntary encumbrance of the Homestead property, such as a mortgage as collateral for a promissory note). Finally, a surviving spouse and minor children's Homestead interests are protected after the death of the Property owner.

Emotional Support Animals under Fair Housing Act

Overall Context

Many Condominium Associations and some Homeowner Associations impose restrictions on or prohibit pets within their community. However, the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), which prohibits discrimination against certain classes of persons in the housing context, prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the rental or purchase of property. The FHA requires that an Association make a "reasonable accommodation" for persons with certain disabilities to allow an emotional support animal.

What is an emotional support animal?

An emotional support animal, also called an assistance animal, is not deemed a pet. An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability. An emotional support animal is not necessarily a dog, but can be other kinds of animals.

Does an emotional support animal need specialized training?

No, emotional support animals do not need to be individually trained or certified.

What does an association consider when a request for an emotional support animal is made?

There are only two questions that an association should consider upon receipt of a request for an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation:

  1. Does the person making the request have a disability — i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities? The person seeking the emotional support animal must have a verifiable disability (the reason cannot just be a need for companionship).
  2. Does the emotional support animal provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of the applicant's existing disability?

A "no" answer to either of the questions means that a housing provider is not obligated to make a reasonable accommodation and can continue to enforce their pet restrictions.

What documentation should be provided to have an emotional support animal?

The applicant should provide the association with a letter from the applicant's doctor, psychiatrist, social worker or other mental health professional stating that the applicant has an existing disability and explaining how the emotional support animal is needed to help them cope with this disability and/or improve its symptoms. The applicant should also attach a brief personal statement explaining to the association that they are asking for "a reasonable accommodation to keep their pet who functions as an emotional support animal." The Association may NOT ask for personal medical details or access to medical records.

Can an association delay granting a request for an emotional support animal?

There is no specific time period given in which a request must be granted, but a lengthy delay may be construed as a denial. In one case, a condo association requested detailed information and submitted continuous inquiries into the applicant's medical history over the course of many months. The court found that the delay resulted in a constructive denial of the disability accommodation request for his assistance animal, subjecting the association to liability for violation of the FHA.

Can the association charge a pet deposit for an emotional support animal?

No, a housing provider may not charge a "pet fee" for an emotional support animal. These animals are not pets and cannot be subject to pet fees.

Can an association ban an emotional support animal based on breed?

No, breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal. However, an association may determine if the specific assistance animal in question poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. This determination must be based on objective evidence about the specific animal's actual conduct. It may not be based on fears about a certain type of animal or evidence from damage done by previous animals of the same type. Even if the breed is illegal by local ordinance.
An issue may arise where a condo association's insurance company has restrictions on breeds of dogs in the insured's policy. An accommodation is considered unreasonable if it imposes an undue financial and administrative burden on a housing provider's operations. If a housing provider's insurance carrier would cancel, substantially increase the costs of the insurance policy, or adversely change the policy terms because of the presence of a certain breed of dog or a certain animal, the assistance animal imposes an undue financial and administrative burden on the association. However, if the insurance company has a policy that does not have an exception for an assistance animal, an investigation may be launched against the insurance company for potential disability discrimination.

Once granted, does the Association have to allow the emotional assistance animal forever?

No. The Association may request updated documentation on a reasonable periodic basis (i.e., annually).

What if the request is denied or unreasonably delayed?

A person with a disability who believes the request was improperly denied may file a complaint with HUD.

For additional information on emotional support animals, check out the following resources:

Are You Up To Date On The 2017 Real Estate Contracts?

The Florida Realtors and Florida Bar ("FRBAR") have rolled out significant revisions to their Real Estate Sales Contracts this year. Some of the changes are minor; others should give a Real Estate Sales Associate pause to reflect how these changes might affect their client's rights and obligations in a transaction. A few of these FRBAR Contract revisions are addressed below.

FRBAR Residential Contract for Sale and Purchase (Rev. 4/17)

Financed Transactions – The financing contingency section in Paragraph 8 of the FRBAR Contract underwent a drastic overhaul. The term "Loan Commitment" has been replaced with "Loan Approval." The default Loan Approval Date is now 30 days from the Effective Date of the Contract. If the Buyer – after diligent effort – is unable to obtain Loan Approval by the Loan Approval Date, then the Buyer may terminate the Contract by providing written notice to the Seller. If the Buyer does not provide written notice to the Seller that Buyer has either waived the Financing Contingency or received Loan Approval, then Buyer is deemed to have waived the Loan Approval. HOWEVER, within three days after the Loan Approval Date, the Seller may terminate the Contract and return the Deposit to the Buyer. A Seller may wish to terminate during the three-day window if they have received a cash offer, have a back-up offer, or if the Buyer's Deposit is so small that the Seller does not want to keep the property off the market under the circumstances. If the parties do not terminate as permitted by the Contract, then the parties move forward to closing.

Seller's Disclosures – Paragraph 10(b) requires the Seller to provide to the Buyer documentation of any known open permits or improvements which were not permitted. In 10(j), after the statement that the Seller knows of no facts materially affecting the value of the Real Property which are not readily observable and which have not been disclosed to Buyer, the Seller additionally affirms that the Seller has received no written or verbal notice from a government entity or agency as to a currently uncorrected building, environmental, or safety code violation.

Homeowner's Association/Community Disclosure – On the horizon are revisions to the form Comprehensive Rider B. Homeowner's Association/Community Disclosure. The new form will provide details about the mandatory fees and assessments, and if association approval is required, it makes the Contract contingent upon the parties receiving Association approval no later than 5 days prior to closing. Therefore, the Buyer would have the opportunity to terminate the Contract if the Buyer has not received Association approval within this time frame. The new form should be available later in 2017.

Feel free to contact our office with any questions regarding the 2017 Real Estate Sales Contracts.