Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Property tax relief coming for more than 330,000 L.A. County homeowners

June 1, 2009 | 12:34 pm

Help is in the mail for many Los Angeles County homeowners frustrated by the housing slump.

The Los Angeles County assessor’s office this morning announced that it has finished an automatic review of assessments for 473,000 homes purchased between July 1, 2003 and June 30, 2008 -- which account for about 28% of homes countywide.

County officials reduced assessments on about 70% of properties reviewed. Homeowners getting a break should soon get a letter in the mail. The average property tax savings is $1,400 for owners of single family homes and $1,100 for condominium owners, county officials said.

Those receiving reductions included owners of 256,000 single family homes and 77,000 condo owners. The average reduction in value was $126,000 for single family homes; $96,000 for condos.

The reduction in assessments means a loss of $440 million in tax revenue, a 1% drop county officials anticipated in last month’s proposed budget, said Assessor Rick Auerbach.

“We were worried that it would be a lot higher,” he said.

Northern areas of the county saw the most reductions, including the Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita, according to Auerbach.

“Those were newer homes. Many of those homes were probably purchased with problem loans and they ended up a higher percentage in foreclosure,” Auerbach said.

Eastern areas of the county also saw reductions, including the Pomona and Walnut Valley areas, Auerbach said.

Property tax assessment were reduced only if the property's estimated value on Jan. 1, 2009 declined below what is known as "Proposition 13 limits," determined by the assessed value at the time of purchase plus up to 2% each year after that, if home values increase.

Letters were mailed first to those who received reductions, said Robert Knowles, a spokesman for the assessor’s office. Homeowners can check the assessor’s website to see whether their homes were reviewed, but results will not be posted online until early July.

Homeowners who did not receive reductions can appeal to the county’s assessment appeals board until Nov. 30, and if that fails, in court. Knowles urged homeowners to call the assessor’s office before they appeal to see if their case can be reconsidered.

“Contact us if you have some new information, some comparable sale we’re not aware of. We try to settle these things before they get to the assessment appeals board,” he said.

Homeowners who were not automatically reviewed this year can file for free until Dec. 31. Forms are available on the assessor’s web site or by calling (888) 807-2111. Knowles cautioned homeowners to avoid scammers who charge them to request reviews or appeal assessments, usually for $150 to $200.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: Los Angeles Times