The property appraiser’s office said Gordon was running a six-bed, 1,500-square-foot ALF at 19117 NW 33rd Ave. Gordon was not living at the home, Lopez-Cantera said, so she did not qualify for any homestead exemptions. The appraiser said she is facing $7,000 in fines.
Long the subject of criticism by neighborhood groups and elder advocates, the state’s assisted-living industry came under withering scrutiny two years ago when The Miami Herald published a series of stories, called Neglected to Death, that found dozens of people dying of abuse and neglect, with caretakers tying frail residents with ropes and forcing them into closets. In the series’ wake, several of the worst home were shut down, while others faced oversight that had not been seen in decades. Gov. Rick Scott created a two-year task force that studied the industry and recommended a host of reforms that the Legislature ignored.
Brian Lee, a former statewide, long-term care ombudsman who now runs an elder advocacy group called Families for Better Care, said many owners — particularly of the small, mom-and-pop homes that flourish in Miami and Hialeah — poor-mouthed the industry at the public hearings held by Scott’s task force the last two years. “They do make a lot of money, a significant amount of money, and still provide substandard care and offer third-rate food.,” he said. “Yet we see assisted-living facilities selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars because the market is so good.”
“I find it hard to believe,” he said, adding the homestead exemptions appear to be “just another way for them to make a few extra hundreds of dollars till they get caught. And, once they get caught, they may stop.”
Pat Lange, who is the executive director of the state’s largest ALF industry group, the Florida Assisted Living Association, said she was “struck” by Miami-Dade’s failure to catch the ALF tax cheaters, given the large amount of money at stake. “We applaud Lopez-Cantera for taking this action, if it was done appropriately,” she said.
But, Lange added, her group is concerned that some of the ALFs on the county’s scofflaw list may not actually be ALFs. The state licenses a variety of congregate living arrangements, Lange said, and a news release issued by the property appraiser’s office left open the possibility that some of the homes being fined might be adult family care homes, or other types of group homes that may be entitled to a homestead exemption.
““While we know that some don’t play by the rules, we don’t want people to paint the whole industry with the same brush,” she said.