Miami fire fee settlement checks are out, but only for 25 percent
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Miami fire fee payers are getting back 25 cents of each dollar the City of Miami illegally charged them — and a little more may follow.
Of the 59,000 requests for refund, about 45,000 were processed and refund checks mailed, said Cody Bland, project manager for Epiq Systems, the fire fee settlement administrator.
After pending settlement claims are closed, any leftover money is to be divided again among all recipients, Mr. Bland said.
Following a 10-year legal battle, plenty of controversy and an initial seven-resident settlement that would have cut other property owners out of the deal, taxpayers now can spend their refund and turn the page on a chapter of the city's history that for a while shocked and disillusioned many Miamians.
The court ruled that the portion of the fee used for rescue services to a property, not a person, was illegal.
Some have yet to get refunds. A batch of 2,000-plus checks that were awaiting the audit process are now in the mail.
And more than 12,000 claims are pending, but 7,000 of them were duplicates and 1,500 came after the Oct. 23 deadline so they're ineligible, Mr. Bland said, adding that the rest were missing information or signatures.
One probable cause for duplication of applications was that initial settlement notices were mailed in envelopes incorrectly labeled "Bankruptcy Documents Enclosed." Mr. Bland said some property owners may have submitted the form twice to make sure they were counted.
Instead of checks, those 12,000 homeowners are to receive letters saying they need to submit more information, fill out a new form, or don't qualify for the refund.