Homestead fraud costs county up to $1 million

Escambia County Property Appraiser Chris Jones states that homestead fraud in Escambia County robs county coffers of up to $1 million annually.

“Unfortunately some property owners claim exemptions to which they are not entitled,” Jones said. “These may include rental or vacation properties, second homes or other properties in which the owner does not reside.”

Homestead fraud, of which there are about 650 cases a year, occurs when a person who is not a resident of Escambia County files for and is granted a homestead exemption; when that person is not in good faith residing on the property which has been granted the exemption; or is claiming a resident benefit in some other location while at the same time claiming an exemption on the property on which they filed. Homestead fraud is punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of $5,000, or both.

“In the past the property appraiser’s office has recovered as much as $600,000 a year by being aggressive in pursuing homestead fraud.” Jones said, “Everyone should care about this because those fraudulently claiming a homestead exemption are essentially stealing from our law enforcement and our schools, and adversely impacting the quality of life of the majority of citizens who are following the law.”

Jones urges citizens who are aware of any homestead fraud to report it to his office.

“If you are aware of anyone who is claiming an exemption on property where they do not reside, which is rented, vacant or merely a vacation home, I would ask you to call our office,” he said.

Anyone contacting the property appraiser’s office to report potential fraud can be assured of confidentiality by either calling the Homestead Fraud Department at (850) 434-2735 or by filling out a form online at
“By helping to control homestead fraud the vast majority of citizens of Escambia County who abide by the law, can help ensure that we all receive the same homestead benefits afforded us under the law,” Jones said. “Homestead fraud is not a game or some clever way to gain an advantage. It’s illegal.”