State Rep. Mike Hill has been cleared of an accusation he committed homestead exemption fraud, the Pensacola News-Journal reported.
Escambia County Property Appraiser Chris Jones told the newspaper that the Pensacola Beach Republican “is in compliance with Florida law.”
Hill succeeded the late Clay Ford after a 2013 special election for Ford’s seat. Hill moved from his home in Northeast Pensacola to a condo on Pensacola Beach to live inside the district. But he kept the first residence and still claimed its exemption.
A homestead exemption shaves $50,000 off the value of a homeowner’s residence, saving him or her on yearly property taxes. But that house must be the person’s “primary residence,” not a secondary or vacation house.
Penalties include a lien being placed on one’s home until back taxes and interest are paid, plus a 50 percent penalty.
“It was the original homestead exemption I applied for,” Hill told the paper.
“My name was on there and (my wife’s) wasn’t,” he said. “I didn’t think it was necessary because she’s on the deed and we were tenants in entirety so I thought I was the only one that needed to apply for exemption. So just to clear it up, we filed another exemption with her name on it.”
The South Santa Rosa News had reported Hill was being investigated after a citizen allegation of “fraudulently claiming homestead exemption for a house he owns … in the Marcus Pointe area while listing his home address as (a condo) on state financial reports.”
In a message to FloridaPolitics.com, Hill earlier explained that he and his wife “are blessed to have a home in Pensacola, where we jointly hold a deed. That home has a homestead exemption and is the only home in our family that does.
“Because we enjoy the beauty of the beach we also lease a condo,” Hill added. “We spend time in both homes. My residency to serve in the Florida House was certified by the House leadership, and the homestead exemption in Pensacola is in full compliance with the law. So in both cases there is absolutely no violation of any rules or any laws.”
Hill is running against fellow GOP state Rep. Doug Broxson for the Northwest Florida state Senate seat being vacated by Greg Evers, who is term-limited. Evers is now running for Congress.
The Hill and Broxson camps have accused each other of running “dirty tricks,” including the fraud accusation. The primary election is next Tuesday.