Thursday, July 5, 2012

Homestead-exemption fraud cheats honest taxpayers

Special to The Miami Herald

The last couple of months, several readers and residents at crime watch meetings have remarked at how bad the fraud with homestead exemptions in our county. Well, I started to check some of the abandoned houses or foreclosed houses in various neighborhoods where I have had meetings, and to my surprise found several people claiming homestead exemption on homes they were leasing. This is something that is hurting us because its money that is not coming into the county and municipalities. As we all know we have suffered major budget cuts.

In Miami-Dade County, false claims for the homestead exemptions are common, and we in the neighborhoods need to do something about it, just like any crime. Now it’s not going to be easy to catch these criminals, but we certainly can try. We need to get these cheaters to pay their fair share just like the rest of us. I urge you to clamp down on homestead exemption abuse, and help recoup the losses that costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Here is what you need to do: If you suspect any rented house, townhouse or condominium write down the address and go to the Property Appraiser web site at:, and if the property has a homestead exemption – it’s a fraud! Rented property is not entitled to homestead exemption! Once you know call 311. You don’t even have to give your name. I have seen several that are in foreclosure and being rented by the owner, taking exemption!

As a friend of mine told me, the next time you hear of teachers having to dip into their own pockets to pay for school supplies, or cuts that affect youth programs or less food for the elders or even public safety programs, think about those who cheat the system. This is something where you can really help make a difference.

Our Crime Watch organization depends on funding from taxes. Two years ago we got cut $60,000 and lost 2 employees, which left us with three to cover the entire county. Those who have implemented Neighborhood Watch know how this cut affected our program. So I tell you, let’s get those monies in by doing our part!

Last week I said that pets had to be pre-registered for hurricane shelters well I received an email from Kathleen Labrada from Animal Services that “Pre-registration is no longer required and there are no packets sent out. Acceptance is guaranteed; simply show up with your pets. Apparently the web site had not been updated which is where I got the information. Again if you have any questions contact 311 they will give you further information if needed.

In closing, again I want to congratulate our Miami Heat for an outstanding championship. The entire team is an asset to our community and we should all be thankful. Now it’s “Let’s Go Marlins!” Lets show them the same love and support they deserve. They have been a great partner of Citizens’ Crime Watch for several years.
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to, or call her at 305-470-1670

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