Now that conservative firebrand Bill O’Reilly has left Fox News amid a sexual-harassment scandal — and with what CNNMoney speculates is a payout worth “tens of millions of dollars” — many Palm Beach real estate agents would no doubt be happy to help him find a home to buy with that cash.
And if he did buy a home here and homesteaded it as his primary residence, Florida law likely would protect it from liens that might otherwise result from court judgments arising from new so-called “third-party” civil lawsuits brought against him. A number of female co-workers have claimed O’Reilly sexually harassed them, according to an investigation published earlier this month by The New York Times. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Palm Beach is already home to O’Reilly’s former boss, Roger Ailes, who left his position in July as CEO of 21st Century Fox in the wake of fallout from a sexual-harassment lawsuit filed two weeks prior by former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson. Her suit alleged that Ailes had harassed her during her time at the network, charges that he denied. Other women, including former anchor Megyn Kelly, made similar claims, also denied by Ailes.
In September, Ailes used a trust to pay $36 million for a new beachfront house at 6 Ocean Lane after leaving the network with a settlement reported to be more than $40 million.
Ailes has already filed court documents declaring that the house is his “permanent domicile,” although it’s unclear from property records whether he will seek a homestead exemption.
“When it comes to your homestead, Florida law protects your (primary) home from judgments for third-parties (in most lawsuits),” said Palm Beach real estate attorney Guy Rabideau, noting that the protection does not apply to liens filed by the IRS or contractors who have done work on the house.
Florida law also protects a spouse who jointly owns a home here from liens against that property stemming from judgments filed against his or her spouse, Rabideau said. Such ownership as “tenants by the entirety” wouldn’t apply, however, to O’Reilly, who is divorced.
Limbaugh, Coulter as neighbors?
Regarding O’Reilly’s departure from Fox, neither the company nor O’Reilly’s representatives have acknowledged that a payout was part of his departure, CNN is reporting. “A confidentiality agreement limits what the two sides can say,” according to a CNN report by Brian Stelter of CNN Money.
If O’Reilly did decide to buy a home in Palm Beach, he would be neighbors with Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, two other media personalities whose careers were built on espousing conservative – and often controversial – viewpoints, sometimes on Fox News programs.
He also wouldn’t be far from the Estate Section home of bestselling author James Patterson, with whom O’Reilly wrote the recently released children’s book Give Please a Chance, and radio shock-talk personality Howard Stern.
Stern, Limbaugh and Coulter all have homes on the North End. Patterson and Limbaugh have their properties homesteaded in the Palm Beach County tax rolls.
Unlike many other states, Florida doesn’t require a homeowner to reside here for a certain number of days each year to qualify for residency.
As defined by the state, a property owner’s permanent residence is the address listed on his or her voter’s registration card, driver’s license or other official identification, as well as the place where the owner’s cars are registered and income tax is filed.
Florida’s homestead rules are complex but generally place a cap on increases of a homesteaded property’s assessed-valuation for property-tax purposes. The exemption limits future increases in assessed value to 3 percent or less a year or the amount of change in the consumer price index, whichever is lower. For non-homesteaded properties, the annual increase in assessed value is capped at 10 percent.
The exemption also applies an automatic $50,000 deduction to a property’s assessed value.
Homesteading is not allowed for residents who have been granted a similar benefit in another county, state or country. Non-homesteaded properties include second — or third or fourth — homes, rental properties, vacation homes and vacant land.