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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Questions regarding your TRIM NOTICE?

E-mail us at:
TRIM@LeePA.org

LEE COUNTY PROPERTY APPRAISER PUBLICATIONS

  1. HOW DO I VIEW MY TRIM NOTICE?

    To view your trim notice proceed to the Real Property Search page. If you have not already done so, please read the Real Property Database Disclaimer and then agree with the terms to proceed. After agreeing with the terms you will proceed to the search page. Here you may search for a parcel by STRAP, owner's name or address - click the search button to see a list of possible matches for your criteria. From the search results list, click the link for the TRIM notice on the right hand side of the search results table, under the column labeled links.

  2. HOW DO FORECLOSURES IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD AFFECT MY PROPERTY VALUES?

    The Lee County Property Appraiser’s Office is working closely with the Lee County Clerk of Court and others to stay on top of the foreclosure situation in Lee County. We receive routine reports on the properties that are involved in foreclosure actions to ensure we have the most up to date data with which to set values. Here is a link to some of the latest information.

    1. Current Foreclosure Information provided by the Southwest Florida Real Estate Investment Association
    2. Foreclosure Properties Filed Between December 2006 and June 2008
    3. August 2008 Foreclosure Recap
    4. September 2008 Foreclosure Recap
    5. October 2008 Foreclosure Recap
    6. November 2008 Foreclosure Recap
    7. December 2008 Foreclosure Recap
    8. January 2009 Foreclosure Recap
    9. March 2009 Foreclosure Recap
    10. June 2009 Foreclosure Recap
    11. August 2009 Foreclosure Recap
    12. January 2010 Foreclosure Recap
    13. Foreclosure Statistics

    When it comes to valuation, the foreclosure action itself does not specifically affect values. Rather, the transactions that happen before, during and after foreclosures may affect the value. This includes transactions known as "short sales". The law requires this Office to review every property transfer transaction and either qualify it for use in setting values or disqualify it from being used to set values. Being aware of the market conditions combined with the sales qualification process enables us to properly reflect those factors in our mass valuation.

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  3. WHAT IS MARKET VALUE?

    Florida law requires that the just value of all property be determined each year. The Supreme Court of Florida has declared "just value" to be legally synonymous to "full cash value" and "fair market value."

    The fair market value of your property is the amount for which it could sell on the open market. The Property Appraiser analyzes market transactions annually to determine fair market value as of January 1. Fair market value must be determined for every piece of property in Lee County each year. This includes over 530,000 parcels consisting of residential, agricultural, commercial, governmental and industrial properties, as well as over 74,000 tangible personal property accounts.

    Market value is determined by the three approaches to value as stipulated in the Florida Statutes: 1.) "Direct Sales Comparison"; 2.) "Cost Approach"; and 3.) "Income Approach." In Lee County, we use a computer assisted mass appraisal system that incorporates elements of all three approaches to value.

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  4. HOW IS PROPERTY APPRAISED?

    There are three approaches to value stipulated in the Florida Statutes: 1.) "Direct Sales Comparison", 2.) "Replacement Cost", and 3.) "Capitalization of Income". In Lee County, we use a computer assisted mass appraisal system that incorporates elements of all three approaches to value. Please keep in mind, however, that the best evidence of the fair market value is when several properties similar to yours sell.

    The property’s fair market value can be determined employing one or more of three different methods.

    The first method is to find properties like yours which have recently sold. However, their selling prices must be analyzed very carefully to get the true picture. One property may have sold for more than it was really worth because the buyer was in a hurry to occupy it and would pay any price to get in. Another may have sold for less than it was really worth because the owner needed cash right away, so was willing to sell to the first buyer making an offer. The Property Appraiser must always consider such over or under sales price to arrive at a fair valuation of your property.

    The second method is based on how much money it would take, at current material and labor costs, to replace your property with one just like it. If any improvements are not new, the amount of depreciation must also be determined.

    The final method is used in addition to the other two if you own property which does, or could, provide an income, such as an apartment complex, retail store space, or office building. In that case, the Property Appraiser must consider such dollar facts as your revenues, operating expenses, insurance, maintenance costs, degree of financial risk incurred by owning the property, and finally, the return most people would expect to receive on that kind of property.

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  5. WHY DOES APPRAISED VALUE CHANGE FROM YEAR TO YEAR?

    When the market value changes, naturally so does appraised (just) value. For instance, if you were to increase the total market value of your property by building a swimming pool in your backyard, the appraised value will increase proportionately. Similarly, should your property’s value be decreased by fire or storm damage, the appraised value will decrease to reflect the downward effect on your property’s market value. In addition, the entire community’s economy, as well as the forces of supply and demand, will affect your property’s appraised value.

    The Property Appraiser does not create this value: he simply discovers it as it exists and values the property accordingly. Buyers and sellers set value by their transactions in the market place.

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  6. WHAT IS "RECAPTURE"?

    The "Recapture Rule" (FAC12D-8.0062) requires Property Appraisers to raise the Assessed Value (SOH Capped Value) of qualifying homestead property by the maximum of 3% or the annual Consumer Price Index (C.P.I.) change, whichever is less, on all properties assessed at less than market value in any given year.

    This "Recapture Rule" means that any property receiving a homestead exemption that has an assessed value below market value due to a SOH cap, will be increased by up to 3% pursuant to the Florida Administrative Code. Mr. Wilkinson strongly opposed this Department of Revenue rule and appealed it before an Administrative Judge and the Governor and Cabinet, but unfortunately lost.

    If your market value decreased and your assessed value increased without any new construction, you may be feeling the effects of the Recapture Rule. For more information regarding recapture please contact the Florida Department of Revenue website at http://floridarevenue.com. Then click on "Research Law, Property Tax Law Library, with Florida Administrative Code 12D-8.0062."

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  7. WHAT IF I DISAGREE WITH THE PROPERTY APPRAISER’S MARKET VALUE?

    If you believe that your assessment does not represent the fair market value of the property, you may file a petition with the Clerk of Court for a hearing before the Value Adjustment Board (V.A.B.). This Board is created by State Law and is comprised of five members. The Board appoints Special Magistrates who are qualified appraisers or attorneys, independent of the Property Appraiser’s Office, to conduct valuation hearings. The Special Magistrates are appointed only to determine whether the appraised value of the property is fair market value as of January 1st. Petitions to the Board and further details concerning this process can be obtained by visiting the Property Appraiser’s Office or on our website at www.leepa.org. Petitions must be received (not merely postmarked) by the Clerk of Court before the date that appears on the T.R.I.M. Notice. The petition must be accompanied with a $15.00 per parcel filing fee. Submission with the petition of all requested information ensures proper review of your request.

    MAKING A CASE: You can prevail at V.A.B. by presenting evidence and testimony that your property’s assessed value is not market value. The fact that your assessed value increased or decreased from last year, is not a basis to alter this year’s assessment. Problems common to the neighborhood are already considered in the sales prices of properties sold.

    Also, you cannot base your case on personal hardship, such as living on a fixed income or an inability to pay taxes. You may, however, be eligible for the Tax Deferral Plan or Installment Payments offered through the Tax Collector’s Office. Information regarding these plans is available at the Tax Collector’s website (www.leetc.com).

    THE VAB HEARING: Value Adjustment Board hearings begin in the fall. While an attorney is not required, one may represent you. You will present your evidence and testimony to a Special Magistrate. An appraiser from this office will present evidence as to the market value of your property. After the Special Magistrate hearing, the V.A.B. will notify you in writing of their decision. If you accept the decision, do nothing further. If you disagree with the V.A.B. decision, you may file a Circuit Court civil action pursuant to Florida Statute 194.171.

    Additional information can be obtained from our office, or you may contact the Lee County Clerk of Court’s Office at (239) 533-2328 regarding the filing process.

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  8. WHAT IS HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION and "SAVE OUR HOMES"?

    Homestead Exemption is a constitutional benefit that exempts up to $50,000 from the assessed value of your property. Additionally, you benefit from "Save Our Homes" which limits increases to your assessed value (not your taxes) to the CPI or 3%, whichever is less. Homestead is granted to those applicants who timely file a homestead exemption application by March 1st, possess title to real property, are bona fide Florida residents and live in the dwelling and make it their permanent home on January 1st.

    "Save Our Homes" is a constitutional benefit authored by Mr. Wilkinson and approved by Florida voters in 1992. It places a limitation of 3% on annual assessment increases on Homestead properties beginning with a 1994 base year. For properties granted Homestead Exemption, the initial year’s assessed value will become the base value for the implementation of "Save Our Homes." Following the initial year, the assessed value will not increase more than 3% or the CPI (Consumer Price Index), whichever is less in any tax year. Exceptions to that limitation include new additions or construction, items that had escaped taxation in the past, and any portion of the homestead property that is rented.

    When a Homestead property sells, the assessed value returns to the fair market value in the year following the sale. That fair market value assessment then becomes the base value for "Save Our Homes" purposes for the new owner/homestead applicant.

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  9. WHAT IS PORTABILITY AND HOW DO I APPLY FOR IT?

    Make application to transfer your "Save Our Homes" benefit to your new home.

    The Florida homestead exemption "Save Our Homes" benefit is now "portable" due to the passage of Constitutional Amendment 1 on January 29, 2008. The "Save Our Homes" benefit is the difference between the assessed value and market value of a homestead property due to the annual limit on increases in assessed value. Portability means that, from now on, you can transfer some or all of your old home’s "Save Our Homes" benefit to your new home in an amount up to $500,000. This does not mean that the entire differential of your prior homestead will transfer to your new home, however, it may. If your new home is located in Lee County, you must complete a DR-501T (Transfer of Homestead Assessment Difference) form and submit it to this Office prior to March 1st of the year of application. Visit our website at www.leepa.org to obtain a copy of the required form.

    You must make application to the Property Appraiser in the county where your new residence is located between January 1st and March 1st to transfer your "Save Our Homes" benefit.

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  10. DOES THE PROPERTY APPRAISER LEVY OR COLLECT TAXES?

    No! The Property Appraiser only appraises property and is neither a Taxing Authority nor the Tax Collector and has nothing to do with the amount of taxes levied or collected. However, as a property owner, you are also interested in how the amount of taxes you pay is determined.

    Three separate government entities each having unique and distinct duties are involved in producing your November tax bill. First, the Property Appraiser annually appraises all property in Lee County at the market value as of January 1. Next, each taxing authority within Lee County sets their own millage rate based on the amount of tax dollars necessary to fund their annual budget. Lastly, the Tax Collector takes the amount of taxes due in order to bill and collect all taxes levied within Lee County.

    Calculating the amount of taxes due is done by the Property Appraiser prior to sending the information to the Tax Collector.

    Below is an example using an average home value of $100,000 with a $25,000 Homestead Exemption:

    MILLAGE VALUE TAXES
    County Levy 4.0000 75,000 300.00
    Lighting MSTU 1.5000 75,000 112.50
    Water Mgmt .5000 75,000 37.50
    Schools 9.000 75,000 675.00
    *Mosquito Control .1000 100,000 10.00
    *Fire District 2.0000 100,000 200.00

    The millage rate is multiplied by the value of the property then divided by 1,000 to determine the amount of taxes. The reason: "millage rates" are in dollars per thousand of assessed value. You may also note that certain districts marked with an asterisk do not deduct the Homestead Exemption value prior to calculating the amount of taxes due. These districts are authorized by Florida Statute to use assessed value without exemptions in their tax calculations.

    The example shown above shows the calculation for ad valorem taxes only. However, there are several districts in Lee County that levy non ad valorem assessments for the benefit of the residents in those districts. These assessments are not required to be shown on the Notice of Proposed Taxes but will appear on your final tax bill.

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  11. WHAT IS AN "AG" CLASSIFICATION?

    An agricultural classification is the designation of land by the Property Appraiser, pursuant to F.S. 193.461, in which the assessment is based on agricultural use value.

    HOW DO I QUALIFY?

    To qualify for Agricultural classification, a return must be filed with the Property Appraiser between January 1 and March 1 of the tax year. Only lands which are used for bona fide agricultural purposes shall be classified agricultural. "Bona Fide Agricultural Purposes" means good faith commercial agricultural use of the land. The Property Appraiser, prior to classifying such lands, may require the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s representative to furnish such information as may reasonably be required to establish such lands are actually used for a bona fide agricultural purpose. The Property Appraiser may deny agricultural classification to the following lands:

    • Lands which are not being used for or diverted from agricultural use.
    • Land that has been zoned non-agricultural at the request of the owner.
    • Land on which a sub-division plat is recorded.
    • Land which is purchased for a price three or more times the agricultural appraisal placed on the land.

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  12. WHAT IS TANGIBLE PERSONAL PROPERTY?

    Tangible Personal Property refers to all assets used in a business or rental activity that are subject to an ad valorem assessment. More specifically, it is furniture, fixtures, tools, machinery, household appliances, equipment, signs, leasehold improvements, supplies, and leased equipment -- whatever is used to generate income. Florida Statute 193.052 requires that all tangible personal property be reported each year to the Property Appraiser’s Office. Anyone in possession of assets on January 1 who has either a proprietorship, corporation or is a self-employed agent or contractor, must file each year. Property owners who lease, loan or rent property must also file. The deadline for filing a timely return is April 1 of each year. For untimely filings, Florida Statutes provide guidelines for the penalties that may be applied: 5% for each month the return is filed late, 15% for unreported property and a 25% penalty if no return is filed. Further information regarding Tangible Personal Property may be obtained by writing or calling our Office.

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  13. HOW CAN I HAVE MY INFORMATION REMOVED FROM OR RESTORED TO THE LEE COUNTY PROPERTY APPRAISER WEBSITE?

    Florida Statute §119.071 allows for certain information to be exempt from public disclosure. For eligibility requirements and filing information, click here.

  14. HOW DO I PAY MY TAXES?

    In order to pay your taxes, you will need to visit the Lee County Tax Collector’s website. Please be sure you have the name on the tax bill, the address of the tax bill or the property identification number (STRAP/Account) for the tax bill.

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  15. HOW DO I MAKE A PUBLIC RECORD REQUEST?

    For detailed information regarding making a Public Record request from the Property Appraiser's Office, click here.

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A FINAL NOTE

My staff and I are at your service to answer any questions you may have concerning the Property Appraiser’s Office. It is my goal as your elected Property Appraiser to provide fair appraisals for all properties, whether large or small. We’re here to serve you.

Respectfully,
Kenneth M. Wilkinson, C.F.A.
Lee County Property Appraiser

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