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Homestead Exemption Disappearing For Some Tarrant County Taxpayers

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TARRANT COUNTY (CBS11) - As the deadline to protest property tax valuations approaches, some homeowners are finding the thing that saved them the most, has disappeared.

Property owners are reporting homestead exemptions are sometimes dropping off without notice, causing home valuations and tax bills to spike.

Property tax experts said it often happens when someone has made a change in paperwork related to ownership, but in some cases there is no clear reason why the exemptions have disappeared.

It happened to Mike and Laura Moffitt, who have lived in the same Keller house for 10 years.

"I just about fell out of my chair when she told me," said Mike. "The taxes went up three thousand dollars a year. I was like wow, how we going to do that."

In the Moffit's case they refinanced the home in 2016. At the time they added Laura's name to the property. There was never any warning though they said that it might affect their tax status.

"Most people didn't know until I asked them to look at their form and see if their homestead exemption had been cancelled," said Chandler Crouch, a realtor who has been helping owners protest valuations this year.

He said he's seen at least a dozen cases, most coming from owners who just received valuation notices in late May.

Some cases involved transferring ownership to a trust, or removing an owner's name, but in all cases he said, the occupants of the home never changed.

In emails, the Tarrant Appraisal District explained any change in ownership documents can trigger the exemption to fall off, and require owners to reapply.

Some owners have expressed concern with reapplying Crouch said, because of the possibility the new valuation will be reset to current high values, instead of the capped values the exemption helped protect for several years.

"If you lose your homestead exemption, then it just goes right up to market value," Crouch said. "You're going to get taxed on the full market value of your home."

In the Moffitt's case, it's a difference of more than $100,000 in taxable value.

The TAD said in the case of transferring ownership to a trust, it was likely capped values could be reinstated. In cases where owners are removed, it could also be possible, but still requires a new application.

The deadline for most owners to file protests for valuations for 2017 is May 31, though it could be later if owners did not receive notices until this month.

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