(WSVN) - She got her property tax notice for her house and discovered her taxes had soared. There was a mistake made, but can it be corrected? It’s why she turned to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

I know it’s not always polite to ask, so I asked permission to ask.

Patrick Fraser: “How old are you?

Margaret Mathis: “70.”

Patrick Fraser: “I swear, you look like you’re 35.”

Margaret Mathis: “Oh, my goodness. That’s such a tremendous compliment. Thank you so much.”

Margaret looks much younger and so does her 94-year-old mother.

Margaret Mathis: “I think it just runs in the family.”

Also running in the family, the ownership of this house that Margaret bought back in 1998. A couple of years later, her mother Elizabeth moved in.

Margaret Mathis: “And she let me have some money, so I put the house in her name.”

Each year Margaret paid the taxes, but in 2021, her mother had a request: put the house back in Margaret’s name.

Margaret Mathis: “I did the quit claim deed and got it out of her name and put it back into my name.”

Everything seemed fine, then the property tax notice arrived in the mail.

Margaret Mathis: “It said that my property taxes, which was $341 last year, and it’s jumped to over $5,000.”

From $341 to $5,458. Seeing that would age anyone.

Margaret Mathis: “I just thought it can’t be right. Something’s wrong.”

Turns out Margaret didn’t file for her Homestead Exemption and Senior Citizen Exemption.

Margaret Mathis: “I just assumed it would transfer over.”

Plus, by taking the property out of her mother’s name, she lost her Save Our Homes tax break, jacking up her taxes as well. Meaning she’ll have to pay a minimum $5,400 tax bill for the rest of her life.

Margaret Mathis: “It’s such a tremendous amount to come up with.”

Patrick Fraser: “Are people allowed to make a mistakes?

Margaret Mathis: “You know, I hope that in this case, they can adjust it.”

Well, Howard, if you make a mistake because you didn’t understand the consequences, can you correct it?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “In this case, no. The quit claim deed is a legally binding document, and you can’t ignore it. The property appraiser’s office cannot change it. A judge could, but that could get really expensive. Your best avenue, try to figure out a way to ease the financial pain.”

I spoke to the Miami-Dade property appraiser’s office where they were a big help. First, they said Margaret needs to take care of her Homestead Exemption.

Margaret Mathis: “Well, I went and filed for a Homestead Exemption immediately “

When that was granted, it lowered this years taxes about $1,000 to around $4,400.

The appraiser’s office suggested Margaret do another quit claim deed, putting the property in her name and her mother’s name. That would allow her to use Elizabeth’s $140,000 Save Our Home Portability to lower her taxes to an estimated $1,913 next year, a lot lower than the $5,458 she was facing when she called Help me Howard.

Margaret Mathis: “Oh, it was the best thing I ever did, calling Help me Howard.”

Filing a legal document might seem easy, but the effects can be complicated if you don’t want to hire a lawyer to walk you through it. At least talk to someone who is an expert or ask us. Thankfully, with the help of the property appraiser, Margaret is in much better shape.

A problem taxing you? Want to be exempt from it? Find a home, instead, with us to see if we can do a good deed.

With this Help me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

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

Copyright 2022 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox