Miami Official Cites 98 Small Neighborhood 'Mom & Pop' Assisted Living Facilities, Other Group Homes For Allegedly Scoring Improper Real Estate Tax Exemptions/Discounts By Making Bogus Homestead Claims
In Miami, Florida, The Miami Herald reports:
- Already the focus of intense scrutiny by lawmakers and elder advocates, Florida’s troubled assisted-living industry has taken another hit: Miami-Dade’s new property appraiser has accused scores of the homes’ owners of gaining improper homestead exemptions that could cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
This month, the Miami-Dade Property Appraisers’ Office issued $1.7 million in tax liens against assisted-living facilities that claimed homestead exemptions — resulting in a discount on their property taxes — to which they were not entitled, the office said. Under Florida law, an ALF owner must live on the property in order to qualify for a homestead exemption — which lowers the tax burden only for the portion of the facility in which the owner lives, not for any part of the home that generates income.
Of close to 200 homes that were cited by the department, 98 were ALFs or other group homes where the owner did not live on-site — meaning they were not eligible for any tax relief.
- Under Florida law, violations of the homestead statute are assessed back taxes with a 50 percent penalty and 15 percent interest. Lopez-Cantera said his office also referred the ALFs on his list to the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, but added prosecutions are unlikely because the tax-avoidance was only a misdemeanor.
- Pat Lange, who is the executive director of the state’s largest ALF industry group, the Florida Assisted Living Association, said she was “struck” by Miami-Dade’s failure to catch the ALF tax cheaters, given the large amount of money at stake. “We applaud Lopez-Cantera for taking this action, if it was done appropriately,” she said.
But, Lange added, her group is concerned that some of the ALFs on the county’s scofflaw list may not actually be ALFs. The state licenses a variety of congregate living arrangements, Lange said, and a news release issued by the property appraiser’s office left open the possibility that some of the homes being fined might be adult family care homes, or other types of group homes that may be entitled to a homestead exemption.