CLEARWATER - Do you have a homestead exemption? Are you under the impression that you can't run a business out of your "home" and have a homestead exemption as well?
You can, even though "home" and "business" seem to be incompatible socially and call up memories of tailor shop out front and the family huddled in close quarters in the back.
Something out of the East Side of New York, as it were.
The information that yes, indeed, you can maintain a commercial establishment in the same property in which you live came to light last week.
It was triggered by an observation in this newspaper that the mayor of Indian Rocks Beach had a homestead exemption in the same building that he claims as his home. And the observation implied that there was something wrong with this.
Needless to say, that launched a torrent of words - a virtually Niagara of verbiage - from the mayor.
A check with the Pinellas County Property Appraiser's Office revealed that such an arrangement is perfectly all right.
A sampling of random questioning of people in the area came up with the idea that folks that that was a no-no.
If you have a yen to have a business where you live, go ahead. It's okay. The Appraiser's office, according to an official there, will determine what portion of the property is devoted to commercial use and what to residence.
Say, for instance, as in the case of the IRB mayor, Bill Ockunzzi, that it is determined that 57 percent of the square footage is devoted to "home." That then gives a 57 percent share of the homestead exemption of $25,000.
An example given, where no apportioning is required, is where a home owner rents out two bedrooms but can still claim a full homestead exemption.
In another example, if one lives in an area that is otherwise zoned commercial, you can run a barber shop in the front room, deduct that from the total square footage of the building and then get a share of homestead exemption on the rest.
One practice cited was where owners of a so-called "mom and pop" motel lived on the property. The portion they live in comes under a homestead exemption to the percentage portion it is of the total square footage.
Thus, a barber shop or sales shop or notions shop or whatever, taking up 25 percent of the square footage of what seems to be a "home" leaves 75 percent available for homestead exemption (e.g., $25,000 x 75% = $18,750 homestead exemption).
Ockunzzi described his 5,938 square foot property, that is home and some sort of lodging house, as "mixed use" and fully accredited as such by the Property Appraiser's Office.
The place apparently is a whirlwind activity - the residence of the mayor and, as he describes it, an art studio "(working studio and retail outlet)", and a four-room bed and breakfast.
The mayor explained a lot more at length, which is his wont, but that is the story in a nut shell.
So, take note. If you want to go into business in your home, you can do so without losing your homestead exemption.
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