Dejesus v. A.M.J.R.K., Corp.
Dejesus v. A.M.J.R.K., Corp., --- So.3d --- (Fla. 2d DCA 2018)
In this 2nd DCA case, the Court considered whether the homestead exemption on real property could be held by a corporation. It held that the homestead exemption does not inure to a person residing on property, where that property is solely owned by a corporation.
As a refresher, Article X, section 4(a) of the Florida Constitution, provides as follows:
"There shall be exempt from forced sale under process of any court, and no judgment, decree[,] or execution shall be a lien thereon, ... property owned by a natural person." (emphasis added)
The Court held that the plain language of the Florida Constitution requires that the owner of property be a natural person in order to claim the homestead exemption. The Court disagreed with the trial court's position that homestead status attached to the property because a natural person resided there. The trial court relied on Callava v. Feinberg, 864 So.2d 429 (Fla. 3d DCA 2003), wherein the court stated that, "Florida law does not require that a person be the owner of a homestead property to be protected by the Florida constitution."
The Court found the facts in Callava distinguishable. In Callava, the judgment debtor seeking homestead protection was the beneficiary of a trust which owned the real property in question. Thus, the debtor owned a beneficial interest in the property. Here, even though the debtor was the president and sole shareholder of the corporation which owned the real property, because a stockholder does not have vested in them title to the property, the debtor did not have an actual interest in the corporation's property.