The Cook County Assessor's Office is aggressively implementing the Erroneous Homestead Exemptions statute. Two of the more common homestead exemptions are the Homeowner's Exemption and the Senior Citizen Exemption. Homestead exemptions help to lower your real estate taxes, but they are limited to a person's home residence only.
To qualify for the Homeowner's Exemption you must: (1) live in the property as of January 1st of the tax year; (2) use the property as your principal dwelling place; and (3) assume legal responsibility to pay the property taxes. To receive the Senior Citizen Exemption you must meet the three requirements listed above and be at least 65 years of age anytime during the tax year.
You may only receive one Homeowner's Exemption and one Senior Citizen Exemption. You cannot, for instance, receive a Homeowner's Exemption for your condominium unit as well as for a parking space or have additional exemptions to second households either within or outside of Illinois.
Buying a new home, or that second residence...
The Erroneous Homestead Exemptions statute gives the Assessor the power to file a lien against property. If you are bona fide purchaser for value of a residence who did not have notice of the underlying erroneous homestead exemption you may have a defense to the enforcement of the lien. A title insurance policy for the property that is issued by a title company licensed to do business in the State showing that the property is free and clear of any liens imposed under this Section is prima facie evidence that the property owner is without notice of the erroneous homestead exemption.
In many cases the notice of an erroneous homestead exemption will be clear, leaving the taxpayer with little to do except admit an exemption was wrongfully received and pay the principal amount of back taxes owed plus interest and possible penalties. There will be other cases, however, in which the taxpayer has legitimate defenses against the finding of an erroneous homestead exemption and should request a hearing to fully protect his or her rights under this novel area of real estate tax law. Call us if you need some help!