If you purchased a new primary residence in calendar year 2013, you should be making plans to apply for your Homestead Exemption as soon after January 1, 2014 as possible. You can’t apply sooner than that (they’ll just throw away your application), and you MUST apply NO LATER THAN April 30, 2014.
It used to be a simple process, but one that was easily abused. Over the years, thousands of bogus homestead exemptions were granted and nothing was done to ensure the credibility of most applications. In its infinite wisdom, the Texas Legislature enacted some new rules a few years ago which have dramatically reduced the number of phony homesteads.
The application itself is simple and straightforward, and – for a long time – was the only paperwork required. Now, if you want to apply, you must first update the address on all vehicle registrations AND your driver’s license. If they don’t match the address for which you claim a homestead, you don’t qualify for the exemption.
Here’s some good news – once you’re granted the exemption, you don’t have to re-apply every year – it’s good for as long as you make the home your principle residence.
You can learn more about the process by visiting your county’s central appraisal district (CAD) web site – here are a few of the CADs in the greater Houston/Harris County area:
If you purchased a resale home during 2013 that already had a homestead exemption, that exemption stayed with the house through the end of this year. You MUST apply for a new exemption in your own name between January 1 and April 30, 2014. If you purchased new construction, you do NOT have an “automatic” homestead exemption in 2014 – you must go through the application process just like everyone else.
Some CADs have their own specially designed application forms (e.g., Harris County Appraisal District), but most (including Harris County) use or accept the generic application form published by the State of Texas.
Finally, if you’re approached by mail or phone by anyone offering to save you “all the time and hassle” of applying for your exemption(s) ” . . . for the low, low fee of . . . ” – PLEASE hang up or run the other direction. This is a VERY simple process, one you shouldn’t pay someone to do for you!