Documents and experience tell the tale in Orange County Property Appraiser race
Longtime real estate broker Khalid Muneer may not be a household name, but he is challenging high-profile two-term Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh in the August Democratic primary.
Muneer, who is known in some real estate and civic circles, said in a recent interview, “It’s important to elect a person who will handle the property taxes and value them in an expert way.”
|Muneer's Palm Coast home|
The property appraiser is charged with “identifying, locating, and fairly valuing all property, both real and personal, within the county for tax purposes.”, according to the property appraiser’s website.
“I am running.” Muneer said, “because the property appraiser office is a very important office in Orange County. It needs an intimate knowledge of the appraisal process and a technical knowledge of real estate to run it efficiently and effectively.”
On June 14 Muneer posted a message on his campaign Facebook page asserting that he has “23 years of real estate and appraisal experience.”
|Questionable Facebook post|
However, according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation records, Muneer is not a licensed appraiser.
Singh has been a Florida-licensed appraiser for nearly 25 years. Singh is the first licensed appraiser to serve as Orange County Property Appraiser where he oversees more than 60 licensed appraisers.
Muneer admitted during the interview that he was not a licensed appraiser. He insisted that he completed the appraiser education requirements. He went on to explain that the COVID-19 shutdown prevented him from taking the test to become an appraiser.
Becoming an appraiser in Florida is not as simple as passing a test. It is a lengthy process that requires 200 hours of classes to become an “appraiser trainee.” The trainee must get 1,500 hours of experience working under a licensed appraiser and complete 150 appraisal reports over the course of at least 12 months.
Muneer is a licensed Florida real estate broker. His real estate license records raise questions about where he lives and if he’s in compliance with regulations governing real estate brokers.
Muneer said he and his wife live in a 2-bedroom condo they own in Orlando’s MetroWest community.
Property records show that Muneer and his wife also own an attractive and comfortable 4-bedroom home in the Flagler County town of Palm Coast – 100 miles from Orlando. They have a homestead exemption on that Flagler County house.
Muneer is a registered voter at his MetroWest address, but his wife remains a registered voter in Flagler County. That means his wife would not be able to vote for her husband in his first run for elected office.
Both Muneer and his wife called the Palm Coast address their second home.
In addition, Muneer’s real estate license currently lists the Palm Coast home as the address where he receives mail. Regulations at the Florida Real Estate Commission said licensees are supposed to update their records within 10 days of changing their address.
It’s also noteworthy that a required financial disclosure from Muneer could not be found on the state ethics commission website. Singh's form is on the website.
Despite his lack of credentials and questions about his residence, Muneer insists that he’s the best leader for the Property Appraisers Office because of his civic and political connections in Orange County.
Muneer said his temperament is best suited “to work with Orange County’s largest employers.”
Muneer criticized Singh for his high-profile appraisal disagreement with Disney.
In a written statement, Singh expressed no apologies for his appraisal efforts involving Disney: “We are steadfast in our assessments of these parcels and will continue to protect the interests of Orange County’s residents by defending our values to ensure that the Disney organization pays their fair share of property taxes.
“We are confident in our valuation practices and that our expert appraisers have followed professionally accepted appraisal practices,” Singh wrote, adding, “Disney may assert the opposite in their complaint, but the methods used by OCPA are methods practiced throughout the public and private appraisal industry across the country and internationally.”
In an interview, Singh strongly denied misconduct complaints made against him and said they came from spiteful former employees. Both of them now work for Muneer.
"The voters elected me to lead a team that expertly assesses the most unique county in the world," Singh said. "From theme parks to apartment complexes, to waterparks and hotels, we determine a fair and equitable value for more than a half-million properties every year.
"As the first state-certified property appraiser, I can assure you this is not a job for an uninformed rookie," Singh said. "The potential for malpractice is massive. An inexperienced appraiser would be a disaster from the start because they wouldn’t even know what they don’t know."
"On top of that, the next year will be pivotal as we will – hopefully – be recovering from the global pandemic," Singh said. "My predecessors – Bill Donegan and Rich Crotty – proved that experience matters. The only experience they had was as career politicians, and big business loved them because they could pull the wool over their eyes."
"Orange County's market values topped $220 billion this year," Singh added. "The citizens need someone who is trained, certified, experienced, and has a 7-year track record of excellent service. There is only one appraiser on the ballot this August."
In addition to Muneer, Amy Mercado is also running for the property appraiser post. Neither of them is a certified property appraiser. Ms. Mercado’s financial disclosure form is on file with the state. She does not hold a real estate license.
The county appraiser calculates the value of property. However, the tax rate is set by the county commission. The elected tax collector is responsible for collecting the revenues raised by taxes.