Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Long-Term Leasehold Interest as Homestead

In a case decided by a Florida Court of Appeals in 2012, the issue presented was whether a person's long-term leasehold interest in his condominium could qualify as a "homestead" exempt from forced sale under article X, section 4 of the Florida Constitution.  The Court held that such a condominium may qualify as a homestead.

The Court explained that article X, section 4 of the Florida Constitution does not distinguish between the different kinds of ownership interests that are entitled to the homestead exemption against forced sale. The Court reviewed that the Florida Supreme Court "has long since adopted the general rule that a fee simple estate is not necessary to this exemption."  In determining a homestead, the Court noted that a court must instead focus on the debtor's intent to make the property his homestead and his actual use of the property as his principal and primary residence.

The Court held that when a lessee's interest in a leasehold estate includes the right to use and occupy the premises for a long-term and the lessee uses the property as his principal and exclusive residence, such an interest is entitled to the Florida homestead exemption from forced sale.