Home Heartache: Elderly man stuck with massive tax bill

(WSVN) - An elderly South Florida man is locked in a fight over a six-figure tax bill. The county said he owes the money. He claims he’s already paid. The Nightteam’s Andrew Dymburt has more on this “Home Heartache.”

For the last 46 years, Eduardo Ross has been taking care of his yard in Miami’s Morningside neighborhood.

Eduardo Ross, homeowner: “I do everything here.”

He has double the work because he also owns this house next door.

Eduardo bought the two homes next to each other to make sure he had something to leave his kids.

He raised his family in this home and it’s filled with happy memories, but then his wife died of cancer in 1991.

Eduardo Ross: “Because my wife passed away, I moved over there for a while.”

Eduardo moved back and forth between the two properties a couple of times.

He said he always tried to change his homestead exemption to the house where he was living. He admits sometimes he forgot, but he never claimed two homestead exemptions at the same time.

That’s why he was so shocked when the county sent him this letter.

Eduardo Ross: “They put a lien on my house. They slapped me with a $104,000 lien.”

The property appraiser’s letter said he was not entitled to a homestead exemption and had to pay taxes and penalties and interest totaling more than $104,000.

Eduardo Ross: “Why did they wait for 10 years to tell me you’re doing something wrong? I’m 85 years old. I’ve never done something wrong. I always pay my property taxes on time, and on the two houses I’m paying $24,000 a year.”

Eduardo said he tried to tell the county that since both properties have about the same value, no matter which house had the homestead exemption, he’d be paying the same amount in taxes over the years.

Eduardo Ross: “They don’t want to negotiate. They want to take my house away.”

The fight with the county has taken a toll on Eduardo.

Eduardo Ross: “My health is no good after this. I have medication. My liver’s no good, my mind is no good.”

And now he worries for his family, afraid he could lose his home, so he is suing the county.

Eduardo Ross: “This is stressing me. I cannot sleep. I don’t feel well because of this.”

7News tried to get some answers from the Miami-Dade Appraiser’s Office but no one would talk to us because of the pending lawsuit. But there may be some good news for Eduardo.

The judge has referred his case to mediation, which means someone at the property appraiser’s office will have to sit down and try to reach a fair agreement on this “Home Heartache.”

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