Homestead fraud occurs when a person who has filed for homestead exemption or is currently receiving homestead exemption is determined not to be a permanent resident of Santa Rosa County, or who is not in good faith residing on the property on which he or she filed. Ineligibility for homestead is caused by one of several reasons such as renting homesteaded property; having a homestead exemption or any residency-based benefit in another county or state; not using the homestead property as their primary residence or other reason which should preclude that property from receiving a homestead exemption.
Florida Statute 196.131(2) provides that "any person who knowingly and willfully gives false information for the purpose of claiming homestead exemption is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both." Florida law also states that if it is determined that you have had homestead exemption in the past to which you were not entitled, a lien is placed against your property for the amount of the exemption, plus 50% penalty plus 15% interest per annum for each year during which the exemption was fraudulent. Statutes allow the lien to be placed retroactively for up to 10 years per Florida Statute 196.161.
The Santa Rosa County Property Appraiser investigates homestead fraud very aggressively. The penalties are very stiff, but it is important to know that anyone who claims an exemption to which he or she is not entitled, forces the rest of the Santa Rosa County taxpayers to make up the difference in their tax bills. Fraudulent homestead exemptions steal from our law enforcement, our schools, and our quality of life and from each and every citizen of this county!
We will investigate your leads and you may remain anonymous. If you know of anyone who is committing Homestead Fraud, you can notify the Santa Rosa County Property Appraiser's Office CONFIDENTIALLY by filling out the following form that will be submitted to our office for review. You can also call our office at (850) 983-1898 and remain anonymous.