Homestead Exemption Proof

(WSVN) - Do you own a house or condo? Do you have a homestead exemption to keep your property taxes lower? Now, do you have proof you filled out the application for the exemption? One man did not and got hit with back taxes … which is why the homeowner called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Being a school principal is nice, but Kevin Williams says being the principal at an elementary school is the best.

Dr. Kevin Williams, no homestead exemption proof: “Elementary school is the only place you can be a star everyday. They see you in the TV everyday. ‘Hey, Dr. Williams,’ ‘Hey, Dr. Williams,’ so everyday I’m a star.”

School keeps Kevin busy, and after his wife passed away from a blood clot, his home life is hectic as well.

Dr. Kevin Williams: “Went from married for 21 years and now single parent, four boys in the house.”

Between the kids at school and his kids at home, Kevin’s plate is full … and then he opened his mail.

Dr. Kevin Williams: “And I got a letter from the tax people saying that they were going to put a lien on my house.”

The Miami-Dade Property Appraiser put a $9,000 lien on Kevin’s home claiming he had been getting a homestead exemption, even though the county had no record of him and his wife ever applying for one.

Dr. Kevin Williams: “They’re saying we don’t have documentation, do you have the document? No, I don’t have the paperwork from 13 years ago.”

Kevin says he does not have the receipt you get when you apply for a homestead exemption, but he clearly remembers turning in the application for it.

Dr. Kevin Williams: “I’m positive. I just don’t have the slip. If I had known I need to keep it, I probably would have framed it.”

And Kevin never worried about his homestead exemption because every year he would get this piece of paper that says it was automatically being renewed…

Dr. Kevin Williams: “I’m thinking everything is fine.”

But is it? Depends on who has to prove you applied for a homestead exemption — the county or the homeowner.

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “You have to prove you applied for the homestead exemption, but that doesn’t mean you need a receipt from the application. If the county is sending automatic renewal notices, it indicates you did apply. If the county disputes it, they have to prove you did not apply and they cannot do that because there is a possibility they lost the application.”

I contacted the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser and they spent a lot of time looking into this.

They told me they doubted they made a mistake and lost Kevin’s homestead application…

But they did make a mistake when they transferred the homestead exemption from the prior owner to Kevin and his wife.

I said since the county sent the homestead exemption renewal every year in Kevin and his wife’s name, and they relied on that, why couldn’t they just wipe the lien out?

I was told state law prohibits them from doing that.

But I didn’t give up and neither did the property appraiser’s office.

As I looked through the property records, I discovered another mistake. Four years after Kevin and his wife bought the house, the tax notice was sent to the name of another prior owner.

When I mentioned that to the county, they said they had also done more research and concluded their records from that time in the 2000s were incomplete.

Because of that, the Property Appraiser Pedro Garcia sent a letter to Kevin saying, “I have ordered the immediate cancellation of the $9,000 lien.”

Dr. Kevin Williams: “Ecstatic. Great to know that I am done.”

The lien is gone and Kevin doesn’t owe the $9,000, leaving a happy principal who made just one call to Help Me Howard.

Dr. Kevin Williams: “Overly joyed that I called. I actually got up in church and told my church also how things transpired and how it helped me.”

This was actually a fun one to solve because I got to dig through the records and the property appraiser did a lot of research as well. And how can you be sure you have a homestead exemption? Go online and check. The links are below this Help Me Howard story.

And if you want to confirm your application is on file or there have been issues in ownership that might affect the homestead exemption, call your county property appraiser or go to their office. They can answer your questions and hopefully ease your concerns.

Problems got you sitting at home … stead of enjoying life. Wanna exempt yourself from the headache? Apply with us. Its elementary ’cause our principal goal is to help you.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Broward Property Appraiser
http://www.bcpa.net/

Miami-Dade Property Appraiser
http://www.co.miami-dade.fl.us/pa/

Monroe County Property Appraiser
http://www.mcpafl.org/

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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