I am guessing that this post was sent to me since I am quoted in it. I am not going to get into Mr. Fowler’s homestead exemption; I am going to write about the homestead exemption itself and specifically about the most common: the Residence Homestead exemption.
This Facts Page entry is in response to the bathroom law that was screenshotted. The comments state you can pick the property you want to have a residential homestead exemption on are factually wrong. The law might have been that way in the past, but current law states otherwise. Current law states for a property to qualify for a residential homestead exemption, it must be owned and lived in by the person making the application. Now there are certain cases where the residential homestead exemptions can qualify for surviving spouses, qualifying trusts, and qualified individuals.
The homestead law had a revision in 2011 to reduce the amount of fraud, https://www.amarillo.com/news/local-news/2011-08-29/tax-law-aims-reduce-homestead-fraud. Recently a Justice of the Peace was arrested for homestead exemption fraud, https://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/community/fort-worth/article218793535.html. The bottom of the TAD form states:
NOTICE REGARDING PENALTIES FOR MAKING OR FILING AN APPLICATION CONTAINING A FALSE STATEMENT: If you make a false statement on this form, you could be found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor or a state jail felony under Penal Code Section 37.10. By signing this application you state that each fact contained in this application is true and correct; (2) that I/the property owner meet(s) the qualifications under Texas law for the residence homestead exemption for which I am applying; (3) that I do not claim an exemption on another residence homestead in Texas or claim a residence homestead exemption on a residence homestead outside Texas; and (4) that have read and understand the Notice Regarding Penalties for Making or Filing an Application Containing a False Statement.”
The Residence Homestead exemption is found in the Tax Code, Title 1. Property Tax Code, Subtitle C. Taxable Property and Exemptions, Chapter 11. Taxable Property and Exemptions, Subchapter A. Taxable Property, Sec. 11.13, Texas Property Tax Code
In the above post Ms. Corbin states that the homestead exemption is filed with the county where the property is located and is used for a property exemption and to protect it from creditors. I can confirm that the homestead is used for property tax exemption. The protection from creditors is in several areas like the Texas Constitution and Property Code. I do not want to bore people with all the areas in law and will stick with the Tax Code.
To establish a Residence Homestead Exemption, the state has Form 50-114, named, the Residence Homestead Exemption Application. The 2nd line in the application asks, “Do you town and live in the property for which you are seeking this residence homestead exemption?” and the tax year for the exemption. On page 3 in the Exemption Qualifications, General Residence Homestead Exemption (Tax Code Section 11.13(a) and (b)) states:
"Property was owned and occupied as owner’s principal residence on Jan. 1. No residence homestead exemption can be claimed by the property owner on any other property."
The Tarrant Appraisal District, TAD, has it’s own form 2019 Application for Residential Homestead Exemption, https://www.tad.org/wp-contentpdf/templates/HomesteadApplication2019.pdf, step 3 has the property question as this:
"Do you own and live in the property for which you are seeking this residence homestead exemption?"
Going further into sec. 11.13 (j), provides the definition of a “Residence Homestead”
(j) For purposes of this section:
(1) "Residence homestead" means a structure (including a mobile home) or a separately secured and occupied portion of a structure (together with the land, not to exceed 20 acres, and improvements used in the residential occupancy of the structure, if the structure and the land and improvements have identical ownership) that:
(A) is owned by one or more individuals, either directly or through a beneficial interest in a qualifying trust;
(B) is designed or adapted for human residence;
(C) is used as a residence; and
(D) is occupied as the individual's principal residence by an owner, by an owner's surviving spouse who has a life estate in the property, or, for property owned through a beneficial interest in a qualifying trust, by a trustor or beneficiary of the trust who qualifies for the exemption.
(2) "Trustor" means a person who transfers an interest in real or personal property to a qualifying trust, whether during the person's lifetime or at death, or the person's spouse.
(3) "Qualifying trust" means a trust:
(A) in which the agreement, will, or court order creating the trust, an instrument transferring property to the trust, or any other agreement that is binding on the trustee provides that the trustor of the trust or a beneficiary of the trust has the right to use and occupy as the trustor's or beneficiary's principal residence residential property rent free and without charge except for taxes and other costs and expenses specified in the instrument or court order:
(i) for life;
(ii) for the lesser of life or a term of years; or
(iii) until the date the trust is revoked or terminated by an instrument or court order that describes the property with sufficient certainty to identify it and is recorded in the real property records of the county in which the property is located; and
(B) that acquires the property in an instrument of title or under a court order that:
(i) describes the property with sufficient certainty to identify it and the interest acquired; and
(ii) is recorded in the real property records of the county in which the property is located.
In Sec. 11.13, it relates to the renting portion of a qualified residential structure.
(k) A qualified residential structure does not lose its character as a residence homestead if a portion of the structure is rented to another or is used primarily for other purposes that are incompatible with the owner's residential use
of the structure. However, the amount of any residence homestead exemption does not apply to the value of that portion of the structure that is used primarily for purposes that are incompatible with the owner's residential use.
As you can see that it is a portion of the house that is rented, similar to a room, but it is still the primary residence of the homestead application to qualify as residence homestead.
The vacating of a qualified residential structure is covered in Sec. 11.13 (l):
(l) A qualified residential structure does not lose its character as a residence homestead when the owner who qualifies for the exemption temporarily stops occupying it as a principal residence if that owner does not establish a different
principal residence and the absence is:
(1) for a period of less than two years and the owner intends to return and occupy the structure as the owner's principal residence; or
(2) caused by the owner's:
(A) military service inside or outside of the United States as a member of the armed forces of the United States or of this state; or
(B) residency in a facility that provides services related to health, infirmity, or aging.
The key points here are in a period less than 2 years and the owner intends to move back in and use it a primary residence, or the military sends you somewhere else, or you are in a medical facility.
It is the responsibility of the owner of the property to notify the chief appraiser of a change in qualification status. That is in Sec. 11.43 titled Application for Exemption. Subsection (c) relates to an exemption covered under Section 11.13:
(c) An exemption provided by Section 11.13, 11.131, 11.132, 11.133, 11.134, 11.17, 11.18, 11.182, 11.1827, 11.183, 11.19, 11.20, 11.21, 11.22, 11.23(a), (h), (j), (j-1), or (m), 11.231, 11.254, 11.27, 11.271, 11.29, 11.30, 11.31, or 11.315, once allowed, need not be claimed in subsequent years, and except as otherwise provided by Subsection (e), the exemption applies to the property until it changes ownership or the person's qualification for the exemption changes. However, except as provided by Subsection (r), the chief appraiser may require a person allowed one of the exemptions in a prior year to file a new application to confirm the person's current qualification for the exemption by delivering a written notice that a new application is required, accompanied by an appropriate application form, to the person previously allowed the exemption. If the person previously allowed the exemption is 65 years of age or older, the chief appraiser may not cancel the exemption due to the person's failure to file the new application unless the chief appraiser complies with the requirements of Subsection (q), if applicable.