Think you've applied for the popular Homestead Property Tax Credit and you're all set to receive (or keep receiving) its benefits? Better make absolutely sure.
The state is in the process of phasing out the old method of deciding whether a property is eligible for the cap on property-tax increases. Before, all you had to do was indicate in land records that the home would be your principal residence -- something that contributed to abuse of the break, both accidental and on purpose. Now you must specifically apply for the credit and verify -- under penalty of perjury -- that you're eligible.
New buyers have six months to get their application in after they purchase. All other homeowners must apply by the end of this year -- or lose their discount in 2013. So you really don't want to miss that deadline.
Donald Dobrow is fortunate he followed up to make sure the application for his Northwest Baltimore home had been received and processed. He knows he mailed it several months ago, but when he looked up his address the other day, the state Department of Assessments and Taxation's site had no record of it.
(The homestead application lookup feature is new. Select your jurisdiction on the state's Real Property Data Search page and type in your address -- leaving off the street type, so "123 Main Street" becomes "123 Main" -- and you too can see if you're good to go. Scroll to the bottom of the page with your property information.)
Dobrow called the assessments agency and a staffer recommended he apply again, this time online. (You can do that yourself here, but only if you have the property account number and homestead application access number the state should have sent you when you were last reassessed. Call to get it if you don't have it.)
The state notes that it's faster to process online applications, plus you get a confirmation that you can keep for your records.
"I'm glad I read your article or else I would never have thought to follow up on that," Dobrow said.
I'm glad he called -- there's no better heads up for the rest of us than a personal experience. And it's good that the state added homestead application status to its online lookup site. The application requirement was signed into law in 2007 -- dollars to donuts there are some homeowners who applied a few years ago but aren't certain now that they did, and others who think they did but didn't.
Got a housing news tip or experience to share? (Or just want to tell me something?) Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.