Property Taxes

(WSVN) - Here is a question for you … if you make a mistake and don’t pay enough taxes, the government can come after you, but if the government makes a mistake, can they still come after you? It’s why one woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

The way people talk about trailer parks is enough to make Joan Hoffman’s head spin.

Joan Hoffman, back tax troubles: “I hate it! On TV you hear someone say something about ‘trailer trash.’ The back of my hair goes right up. But they haven’t seen this park, so its OK.”

Joan not only lives at Hialeah Trailer Park, she owns the place.

Joan Hoffman: “We call it the Island in the City. It’s just so quiet and nice and no problems.”

Joan and her late husband bought the property 39 years ago … and for 39 years, everything was great ’til she got this letter from the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser’s Office.

Joan Hoffman: “They said they credit me too much, homestead some different type of homestead exemption.”

In the Property Appraiser’s Records, Joan got a Save Our Home exemption on her trailer when the law was passed in 1994 — meaning the value of the property could only go up three percent a year…

But the Appraiser’s Office also included a homestead exemption for 11 other trailers on the lot. They should have been listed as rental properties, meaning the taxes would have been higher.

Joan Hoffman: “He said they made the assessment wrong and I should have never got it and I have to pay it back.”

Fortunately for Joan, the Property Appraiser cannot demand all the back taxes from when the mistake was made in 1994. They can only go back 10 years. Unfortunately for Joan, that’s still a lot of back taxes to pay.

Joan Hoffman: “And I owed $24,600 and some dollars for the past 10 years.”

Joan counters she did nothing wrong and the county made the mistake. And she paid, what she was told to pay…

Joan Hoffman: “I always pay it on time. It’s your fault, not mine. Shouldn’t there be something that allows for that?”

And Joan was told if she doesn’t pay the back taxes…

Joan Hoffman: “He said it had to be paid by June 30th or we are going to put a lien on your property. It’s a lot of money! I’m 82 years old. I will be 83 next year. I don’t know where he thinks I’m going to get it.”

Well Howard, Joan didn’t do anything wrong. The mistake was made years ago by the county, so does she have to pay for the county’s mistake?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “The law is actually funny. If you make a mistake, you have to pay. If the government makes a mistake, you have to pay. They reason? It’s money owed, but there are limits. The government can only go back 10 years and they cannot charge interest and penalties if it’s their fault.”

Miami-Dade Property Appraiser’s Office then met with us…

They told us while they were going back 10 years for back taxes, they were not going to charge interest and penalties since the mistake was not Joan’s fault. The county has placed a lien on Joan’s rental properties, but if she does not pay, they cannot foreclose and take her property away.

Howard Finkelstein: “To avoid a mistake like this happening to you, check your property tax bill when it’s mailed to you in the fall. If you see a mistake, call the county and get it corrected. If you see something you don’t understand or seems off, contact the Property Appraiser’s Office. It might save you money and even if it doesn’t, if you ignore the problem, it’s not going away and one day it’s really going to hurt to have to pay it.”

Joan Hoffman: “For 10 years they didn’t catch anything. That is what I’m upset about.”

At 82, Joan might be in the sunset years of her life … and so she has decided she is not going to pay the back taxes. Instead, enjoy life and leave the tax bill to her family.

Joan Hoffman: “My grandkids can pay it, if they sell the property. It’s $24,000 some odd dollars. I can use that for other things.”

And since the county can’t charge interest and penalties, Joan is smart to let her heirs deal with it.

Now Howard mentioned checking your property tax info. You may be entitled to things such as a senior exemption, a widow exemption or a disability. To find out, we have put the links to each Property Appraiser’s below. Go look. Might save you some money.

A taxing problem left you in a bad lot? Wanna foreclose on the issue? Park it with us. We are pretty mobile and you can always lean on us. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser 7News.


Broward County Property Appraiser

Miami Dade Property Appraiser

Monroe Country Property Appraiser

Palm Beach County Property Appraiser


Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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