HOMEOWNERS URGED TO CHECK HOUSING
Brevard County embarks on search for property owners who claim improper exemptions
Even if accidental, penalties possible
By Wayne T. Price
In Ohio, it’s the “Homestead Exemption and Property Tax Rollback.”
New York’s is the “School Tax Relief Exemption,” or “STAR” program.
Wisconsin has the “Lottery and Gaming Credit Program.”
All are similar to Florida’s Homestead Exemption, which gives homeowners
property tax breaks if Florida is their primary residence.
But bona fide Brevard residents — either unknowingly or on purpose — who
claim exemptions or tax credits from states where they own another home, in
addition to their house in Florida, can find themselves owing several thousands
of dollars in back taxes, penalties and interest.
The Brevard County Appraisers Office now is advising people to thoroughly review
all properties they own for residency- based exemptions outside Florida and
remove any that no longer apply.
The warning comes as the county soon will be more aggressive in identifying
violating homeowners. Last Thursday, the county began advertising for proposals
from companies that can pore through housing data to locate suspected cases of
property owners claiming more than one residency-based exemption. They’ll
provide their findings to the appraiser’s office and see if further action is
“Identification of violations is a reactionary process for our office and,
unfortunately, not all exemptions are easily identified by property owners,”
said Dana Blickley, who has been Brevard’s Property Appraiser since 2013.
“It’s not going to be in the future.”
See PROPERTY, Page 29A
Exemptions specialists Dedra Haynes-Waller, left, and
Denise Hughes, center, check records with Dana Blickley, Brevard’s property
appraiser, at her Titusville office. TIM SHORTT/FLORIDA TODAY
Article Continued Below
PROPERTY on Page A29
Continued from Page 27A
Translation: Check your property records. Even if a mix-up
is an honest error on the part of the property owner, state law gives
appraisers no leeway on going after back taxes and collecting penalties and
“Currently, when these cases are identified, Florida’s
property appraisers have no discretion to do anything other than remove the
Florida homestead exemption and lien the property for back taxes,” Blickley
Since becoming property appraiser, Blickley’s office has
investigated scores of potential homestead fraud in Brevard. The result has
been $253,000 in liens filed for back taxes.
But the office started running across a few cases —
mostly by chance — that weren’t necessarily fraud but rather something
closer to lack of awareness, Blickley said. (The office might start looking
into a property’s status when a piece of mail it sent out gets returned.
Further investigation routinely reveals property owners having a residence in
another state where they could be receiving tax breaks that amount to only $50
to $100 in annual savings.) Blickley noted one recent case of a Connecticut
man living in Cocoa Beach who also owned a property in Connecticut. In
Connecticut, he was receiving an annual veterans discount of $78. The owner,
whose name she wouldn’t disclose, applied for and received his Connecticut
tax break about 35 years ago. In 2004, he became a Florida resident —
registering his vehicles here and claiming Florida his primary residence. Now,
he and his wife are on the hook for more than $25,000 in back taxes and
penalties and interest to Brevard because of that $78 annual benefit. And, he
has lost his homestead exemption here.
“The penalties are steep,” Blickley said, “and there
is no administrative recourse under state law. I have no latitude on whether,
or how, to impose financial penalties and remove the homestead designation.”
Blickley said it’s those type of Florida residents who
shouldn’t lose their homestead exemptions. If they remove the tax discount
they received in another state and repay the subsequent tax difference in that
state, that should solve the problem. She wants state legislators to grant her
and other property appraisers “the ability to identify and rectify similar
In light of what’s to come with data mining, Mitchell
Scott Goldman, a Cocoa-based real estate lawyer, said homeowners who have
residences in other states should immediately check their housing situations.
If they’re getting exemptions in other states and
claiming Brevard as their primary residences, they need to get the exemptions
from the other states removed.
“It is a problem,” Goldman said.
“It makes a big difference if you have a homestead
exemption, and it impacts all of us. If you’re receiving one you’re not
entitled to, it means we all have to pay more in taxes.”
Contact Price at 321-242-3658 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dana Blickley, Brevard
County’s property appraiser, said she has no leeway in assessing penalties.
TIM SHORTT/ FLORIDA TODAY