Million dollar estates with six-digit property tax bills

Local 10's Ross Palombo confronts homeowners who haven't paid up

This Coral Gables home may be worth more than $9 million dollars, but Local 10's Ross Palombo found its owners hadn't paid more than $190,000 in property taxes.

MIAMI – Outside of a Coral Gables $9.6-million estate, there were shocked faces, stunning moments, and striking disbelief.

"This is ridiculous!" homeowner Camilla Zelaya screamed at Local 10 Investigative reporter Ross Palombo.

On her luxurious address at 858 Old Cutler Road, past her landscaping, art, pool, and tennis court, there was another surprising detail.  On this day, she owed the county more than $190,132 in property taxes.

"This is the highest unpaid tax bill in the county," Palombo said.

"There's a mistake," Zelaya said. "It has nothing to do with me..."

"Well, it's your home isn't it?" Palombo asked. "Do you plan on paying the taxes do you think they're paid?"

"I have no frickin' idea," Zelaya screamed.  She and her husband then paid the taxes the next day.

In nearby Miami, at 3575 Stewart Avenue, a 9-bedroom, 8-bathroom, 42-thousand square foot water-side estate that is worth $6.3-million owed $149,084 in taxes.

And, on Palm Island, at 166 Palm Avenue, on Miami Beach, an 8-bedroom, 8-bath, $6.6-million home owed $136, 398.

"That's, that's a lot," Miami-Dade Tax Collector Fernando Casamayor said.

He collects taxes on 883,797 properties.  That comes to $3,723,173,231 this year alone.

"Do they all pay on time?" Palombo asked.

"No, not usually," Casamayor said.

It turns out that, each year, about 9% don't pay.

"It's a financial burden to wait longer than expected to get money to fund services," Casamayor said.

That tax money funds all county services like fire, police, and schools.

"It's disturbing!" tax payer Dennis Siegel said.

He paid his taxes this year on his $25-thousand condo and can't understand why some of the wealthy people don't pay or pay late.

"I pay my obligations. What other people do is on their conscience," Siegel said.

Those who do pay late, but pay before May 31st , pay interest changes and fees.  This year, Zelaya paid a whopping $5,724 for being late. 

On June 1st, the rest of the unpaid taxes get sold as "tax certificates" at auction.  The county then gets all of its money.  The certificate holders, in return, get to charge a much higher interest rate when the homeowners do finally pay.  If it goes past two years, they can also try to get the entire house sold at auction to recover their money.

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