Homestead fraud can occur in a variety of ways. One of the most common occurrences is when an individual or married couple apply for and are approved for a homestead exemption; and subsequently, it is determined that they are not a permanent resident of Sarasota County. You may view the Florida requirements for permanent residency here.
It is also illegal for a person or a married couple to claim more than one "residency based exemption" within the U.S. or Puerto Rico.
Other ways fraud can occur is when the status of the property or of the individual(s) benefiting from the homestead exemption changes and the property owner(s) fails to inform our office. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- All or any portion of the homesteaded property is or has been rented
- Owner no longer occupies the property as their permanent residence
- Owner has permanently moved to an assisted living facility
- Owner has married or remarried
- Owner is deceased
- Ownership of the property has changed
- One or more owners claims a permanent residency based tax exemption or tax credit on another property elsewhere in the U.S. This includes married couples where one or both people claim a residency based exemption on another property.
Exemptions are not transferable or inheritable. At the beginning of every year, an automatic renewal receipt for property tax exemption is mailed to individuals benefitting from a homestead exemption in Sarasota County. This receipt, mailed in the form of a postcard, must be returned to our office if the status of the property or of the individual(s) benefitting from the homestead exemption has changed.
Fraudulent exemptions steal from our law enforcement, our schools, our medical services and can lower our quality of life in Sarasota County. Ultimately, honest taxpayers are left with making up the difference that homestead fraud creates.
Section 196.031(5), Florida Statutes, states in part that a person who is receiving or claiming the benefit of an ad valorem tax exemption or tax credit in another state where permanent residency is required as a basis for the granting of that ad valorem tax exemption or tax credit is not entitled to the homestead exemption.
Pursuant to Section 196.161(1)(b) of the Florida Statutes, upon determination by the property appraiser that for any year or years within the prior 10 years a person who was not entitled to a homestead exemption was granted a homestead exemption from ad valorem taxes, it shall be the duty of the property appraiser making such a determination to serve upon the owner a notice of intent to record in the public records of the county a notice of tax lien against any property owned by that person in the county, and such property shall be identified in the tax lien. Such property which is situated in the state of Florida shall be subject to the taxes exempted thereby, plus a penalty of 50 percent of the unpaid taxes for each year and 15 percent interest per annum.
Florida law further states that should a person who improperly benefitted from a homestead exemption no longer own property in this county, but own property in some other county or counties in Florida, it shall be the duty of the property appraiser to record a notice of tax lien in such other county or counties, identifying the property owned by such person in such county or counties.
§196.011(9)(a) … “It is the duty of the owner of any property granted an exemption, who is not required to file an annual application or statement, to notify the property appraiser promptly whenever the use of the property or the status or condition of the owner changes so as to change the exempt status of the property”…
If you know of or suspect homestead exemption fraud is taking place in Sarasota County, please contact us. You can call us confidentially at 941.861.8200 or email us using our anonymous form below.